If you have been following the Eastern equine encephalitis outbreak
in the Northeast US, most of the news stories end with a statement such as “the
first killing frost ends the adult mosquito season in any given area.” This is
a completely valid assumption when you live in an area where temperatures drop
below freezing and stay there for weeks at a time.
However, to say that winter weather in our region can be variable is an understatement. While our recent cold front may have frozen some tender plants, it wasn’t enough to do much damage to our resident population of southern house mosquitoes, Culex quinquefasciatus.
That’s because, as the days get shorter and temperatures and humidity drop, this last generation of female mosquitoes plump up internal fat reserves and find a nice sheltered spot to wait out the winter. Storm drains are a favorite haunt, along with garden sheds and rodent burrows.
Along with a thicker outer skeleton that resists drying and a metabolism slowed down like cold molasses, these mosquitoes enter a form of dormancy called diapause. This state of suspended development will last until the days lengthen and temperatures rise again – a relatively short window in SE Texas.
And that sheltered spot? When it warms up, storm drains do double duty as a breeding place for those overwintering mosquitoes. Excess irrigation and grass clippings keep drains perpetually moist and full of organic material. This creates the perfect breeding ground– read more about it here. Consider turning off your automatic sprinkler for the winter to avoid runoff (it’s also healthier for your lawn).
So how do mosquitoes survive where it is cold and below freezing? They do so as eggs, just like the invasive Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, that we have here. Based on seasonal cues, females will lay eggs with more fat to sustain the embryo, along with a thicker “coat” to keep eggs from drying out so they can survive the colder temperatures. These eggs are as big as a speck of dirt and almost impossible to differentiate with the naked eye. So, do yourself a favor and give those plant pots and other outdoor items a good scrub before storing them away for the winter. You’ll be rewarded with fewer mosquitoes when the weather warms.
The Environmental Services Department is looking for enthusiastic, dedicated, independent individuals to join the Mosquito Team. Increase your field and laboratory experience while being an important part of this public health and outreach program.
Work as part of a team to monitor for mosquito-borne diseases
Deploy traps throughout The Woodlands that target different species
Use your interpersonal skills while sharing information with the public
Delve into the world of mosquito anatomy and identification in the lab
Expand your knowledge of water conservation, recycling right, sustainable landscapes and more supporting Environmental Services programs and events
Positions are from mid-May through end of November with an opportunity to extend the term of employment (can also accommodate students returning to college in August).
Applications will be accepted until April 19, 2019, or until position is filled. Interested candidates are encouraged to submit applications early. View the full job description here.
Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Environmental Services 281-210-3800.
Established in 2005, the mission of the Mosquito Surveillance & Education Program is to reduce the risk of mosquito-borne disease transmission for the protection and wellbeing of The Woodlands residents through the application of Integrated Mosquito Management. Learn what you can do to target mosquitoes.
[Guest blog post & original art by Melissa Birdwell, EfTA Intern]
Protect yourself from mosquitoes by regularly dumping out containers holding standing water and wearing CDC-approved mosquito repellent. This is especially important considering that West Nile continues to surface in our local mosquito population this season.
The mosquito mentioned in the image above, the Asian Tiger, is the vector for Dengue and Zika viruses. These mosquitoes are active during the daytime and readily bite humans. Emptying containers of standing water could protect you from diseases carried by the Asian Tiger Mosquito, as that will prevent them from breeding near your home.
The objects shown in the image above are only some of the possible containers that could house mosquito eggs and larvae. Something as small as a bottle cap could be enough to produce a new generation of mosquitoes in only seven days.
Melissa Birdwell completed an 80-hour internship with Environmental Services as part of the Education for Tomorrow Alliance Student Internship Program. She is a rising senior at The Woodlands Christian Academy and has an interest in biological research.
Education for Tomorrow Alliance is a nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting the business and education communities in Montgomery County, Texas. With innovative programs focused on career, leadership and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) preparation, EfTA has become the portal through which business leaders can access and strengthen local education.
The Woodlands Township a proud partner of EfTA, providing four or more Interns each summer with valuable field and laboratory experience as part of the Mosquito Surveillance & Education Program.
The Montgomery County Mosquito Abatement team has detected the first and second mosquito samples to test positive for West Nile virus in The Woodlands Township. With this heightened risk of transmission residents should be diligent in protecting themselves and loved ones from mosquito-borne disease.
There have been no reports of human West Nile virus cases in Montgomery or Harris Counties at this time by the Texas Department of Health Services. However, mosquito surveillance programs exist because detecting the virus in mosquitoes provides the early warning system that protects our community from infection.
Treatment of the affected areas has been completed. Please visit South County Mosquito Abatement to view a map of the treatment areas.
Do Your Part to Prevent Mosquito-Borne Disease…
Use mosquito repellent when you are outside – day or night. Choose one with an active ingredient recommended by the Centers for Disease Control : DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus are proven effective by research.
Monitor and eliminate all sources of standing water around your property.
Treat standing water that cannot be drained with a biological larvicide such as Mosquito Dunks® or Mosquito Bits® – which are available for purchase at local home and garden centers.
For more tips on protecting your family from mosquito-borne diseases, please visit the Mosquito Control webpage.
To schedule a presentation about reducing mosquitoes for neighborhoods or groups, please call The Woodlands Township Environmental Services at 281-210-3800.