How to reduce your chances of West Nile Virus

Pools are open and grills are going, but are you cooking up a breeding ground for mosquitoes? Make your yard a mosquito-free zone: clear roof gutters of debris; drill holes in the bottom of yard debris containers ; clean pet water dishes and bird baths at least once a week; check and empty children’s toys; repair leaky outdoor faucets. 

Why is this important? 

The Woodlands Township Mosquito Surveillance & Education program recorded the first positive sample for West Nile virus in Panther Creek earlier this month. South Montgomery County Mosquito Abatement responded by spraying about a square-mile area. Take a minute to access this map and input your address to see which zone you live in. Residents of Creekside Park can check the Harris County Treatment Map.

This is a normal time of year to see the start of disease activity in local mosquitoes, and serves as a reminder to do a check of your property for items holding water and protect yourself when outdoors.  

The American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA) recommends people follow the three D’s to keep mosquitoes away:  

  • Drain: Empty out water containers at least once per week  
  • Dress: Wear long sleeves, long pants, and light-colored, loose-fitting clothing  
  • Defend: Properly apply an approved repellent such as DEET, picaridin, IR 3535 or oil of lemon-eucalyptus 

Joseph Conlon, AMCA Technical Advisor, says, “Encouraging your neighbors to also eliminate sources on their own property is critical to a community-wide control program. Mosquitoes require water to complete their life cycle. If their water source is eliminated, so are their offspring.”  

He further states, “we must be prepared to prevent their spread throughout our public health landscape – and this requires safe, effective, sustained mosquito control and awareness in the community.”  

So take a moment to check these simple ways to mosquito-proof your patio and make your next grilling session much more pleasant. Are your neighbors aware it’s just that easy? Share with them and increase the mosquito-free zone around your house even more. Collectively you can make a difference to Fight the Bite and reduce the risk of mosquito-borne diseases, like West Nile Virus. 

Increase your awareness with more mosquito-proofing tips or contact us at enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov.  

Behold, the power of invisibility

There are two ways to guarantee that mosquitoes won’t bite you. 

  1. Get a shield 
  2. Go incognito 

Let’s start with number 2 first. What if I told you that there is a magical coating that cloaks you from marauding hordes of blood-sucking mosquitoes, no matter where you go? An invisibility cape that takes about 20 seconds to put on. Would you wear it?  Like standing upwind of a deer hides your location, wearing repellent has a similar effect when mosquitoes try to track down their next target, as explained here in How mosquitoes find you.  

The biggest problem with the efficacy of repellent is that people don’t wear it. If you are complaining about mosquitoes and not wearing repellent, you may as well criticize the government but not exercise your right to vote.

Here are the top 3 reasons people give for not wearing mosquito repellent:

It stinks

Certainly some repellents are more heavily scented than others (we’re looking at you DEET), but two have almost no smell at all. Look at the front of the bottle and go for one that contains picaridin or IR3535 (also sometimes listed by its chemical name, ethyl N-acetyl-N-butyl-ß-alaninate). If odor is your issue, these are the two you want.

It doesn’t work

There are people at universities that make a living studying the effectiveness of mosquito repellents. One thing they can agree on is that there are 4 effective active ingredients. 

Have you tried each of these? Not everyone will find the same one the most effective. Keep trying until one works for you; it might not be the same one that works for your friends.  Also, note the percentage of active ingredient. It tells you how much of every spray is actual cloaking juice. The more active ingredient, the longer it will repel before you need to reapply. If you’re out where ticks are also abundant, choose one that is effective for both and more highly concentrated. 

Active IngredientPicaridinIR3535Oil of Lemon EucalyptusDEET
% Ingredient15 to 20%15 to 20 %30 to 40%10 to 30%
Fights AgainstMosquitoesMosquitoes and TicksMosquitoesMosquitoes and Ticks
Age Restrictions> 2 months> 2 months> 3 years> 2 months
Derived FromSynthetic version of piperine, found in group of plants that produce black peppercornsStructurally similar to the natural substance β-alanine – a component of pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)Derived from lemon eucalyptus tree branches and leaves or a synthetic version of the same (PMD)Synthetic repellent invented by the US Army for use by military personnel in insect-infested areas
Also Listed AsIcaridin, KBR 3023ethyl N-acetyl-N-butyl-ß-alaninatePara-methane-diol or PMDN, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide
Additional InformationNPIC Fact SheetNPIC Fact SheetNPIC Fact SheetNPIC Fact Sheet

I don’t want to bathe in chemicals

Does anyone want to expose themselves to harmful substances? Of course not. Rest assured that repellents are approved through the EPA and safe for use – read the label. If you use fabric softener, you are exposing yourself to more unknown chemicals formulations than you would be with repellent. Some people are sensitive to DEET and can develop a rash. If the concern is to find a more “natural” mosquito repellent, then check out oil of lemon eucalyptus. It’s derived from an actual lemon eucalyptus tree, but standardized so that the same amount of active ingredient is in each batch. See this previous post for guidelines on using repellents safely.  

Back to Number 1

When weighing all the options to reduce the likelihood of mosquito bites, and thus the risk of mosquito-borne disease, nothing beats an impenetrable shield. Anything that physically separates those piercing, sucking mouthparts from your skin provides the ultimate protection. This usually begins in the form of clothing with a tight weave that hangs loosely, away from the body. 

Bug nets around strollers are the best protection for babies before they’re old enough to wear repellent (see above). Bug jackets are available for adults too – and depending on your situation you might consider it! When treating post-Harvey floodwaters for mosquito larvae, Township staff used these to protect against the swarms of floodwater mosquitoes.  

Fighting off mosquitoes starts by protecting yourself but remember that you can also fight back by treating and removing common breeding places around the home. By protecting yourself with these two simple steps above, you can once again comfortably enjoy your time outside. Just remember that you are only invisible to the mosquitoes, the rest of the world can still see you! 

Questions, comments or to report a mosquito concern, email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov or call 281-210-3800

Itching to know more about mosquitoes?

Attend these summer events and learn how to fight the bite.

In honor of the upcoming National Mosquito Control Awareness Week (June 23—June 29, 2019), the American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA) has three tips to help you declare independence from those pesky blood-suckers.

  • Drain: Empty out water containers at least once per week
  • Dress: Wear long sleeves, long pants, and light-colored, loose-fitting clothing
  • Defend: Properly apply an approved repellent such as DEET, picaridin, IR 3535 or oil of lemon-eucalyptus

Make your yard a mosquito-free zone  and remove standing water in these often overlooked places around the yard by: drilling holes in the bottom of yard waste containers, clearing roof gutters of debris, cleaning pet water dishes regularly, checking and emptying children’s toys, repairing leaky outdoor faucets, and changing the water in bird baths at least once a week.

Joseph Conlon, AMCA Technical Advisor, says, “Encouraging your neighbors to also eliminate sources on their own property is critical to a community-wide control program. Mosquitoes require water to complete their life cycle. If their water source is eliminated, so are their offspring.”

Mosquitoes are more than just a nuisance

Their bites can spread diseases such as Zika and West Nile Virus. “We already have the mosquitoes. We are continually importing the diseases they carry,” said Conlon. “We must be prepared to prevent their spread throughout our public health landscape – and this requires safe, effective, sustained mosquito control and awareness in the community.”

Visit us at a Fire Station near you

To learn more about mosquito control in The Woodlands Township, attend an upcoming  Public Safety Open House. Environmental Services staff will be on hand to answer questions and hand out mosquito dunks, so you can stop the cycle at home. Get an up-close look at fire trucks, rescue units and meet with local fire fighters, at these public safety events brought to you by The Woodlands Township Neighborhood Watch. Details on bike registration, National Night Out events, the Tech Free 4 Me Driving Village Challenge and Give-a-Ways will also be part of this fun and educational event series.  Don’t miss out!

For more information about how you can fight mosquitoes in your own backyard, check out thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov/mosquitoinfo. To report a mosquito problem contact the Environmental Services Department at enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov or 281-210-3800.


The Woodlands Township is a member of the American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA), an international not-for-profit public service association. With 1,600 members worldwide, AMCA services are provided mainly to public agencies and their principal staff members engaged in mosquito control, mosquito research and related activities. For more information on National Mosquito Control Awareness Week, please visit AMCA online at www.mosquito.org and follow AMCA on Twitter @AMCAupdates.

How mosquitoes find you

As weather warms, mosquitoes seemingly come out of the woodwork. How is it that they are always able to find you?

Aeae biting

Keen senses

Mosquitoes use a highly tuned sensory system to zero in on their next blood meal. About 200 feet away, mosquitoes get the first whiffs of carbon dioxide we exhale as we enjoy a bit of gardening or a jog down the pathway. Following the plume – whether it is emitted by us, our furry companions, or a mockingbird up in the trees – brings them closer to the potential host.

Once the carbon dioxide has drawn her within sight, she is further attracted by dark colors and high-contrast patterns. Remember this the next time you reach for something to wear to the neighborhood picnic. Long, loose, light-colored clothing with a tight weave is a good first defense against the piercing mouthparts of the female mosquito. She seeks a blood meal, not to feed herself, but in pursuit of protein to make eggs.  You might be surprised to know that mosquitoes drink plant nectar to fuel their bodies, and pollinate plants in the process.

Getting warmer

Cues

When within three feet the mosquito can sense the heat signature of your body, differentiating you from say, a park bench. Investigating further, she hones in on a specific area to land using “smells” she picks up through her antennae. Lactic acid, uric acid, and ammonia in sweat, as well as the scent of fabric softeners, perfumes and colognes can all attract mosquitoes.

Cloaking spray

DSC_0024

Mosquito repellants can employ a couple different mechanisms in your defense. One is to jam chemical signals from reaching a mosquito’s antennae. The other is to be offensive to the mosquito once she lands and can “taste” it with her feet.  Repellents may use one or both mechanisms – termed primary and secondary repellency.

As we each have a unique chemical signature, try a few repellents to find the one that’s most effective for you. Look past the brand name on the front of the bottle to the bottom. There you’ll find one of the active ingredients the CDC recommends: Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, DEET, or IR3535. What works best for you might be different from your partner or kids.

Sensory Trickery

Mosquito_Trap with Lure

The Mosquito Surveillance & Education Program of The Woodlands Township uses the mosquito’s keen sensory perception to our advantage. We use a variety of lures and baits to attract mosquitoes into traps for weekly monitoring throughout the Township. For example, the Biogents Sentinel trap uses a lure that smells a lot like stinky gym socks. It also has a high-contrast color pattern and can be made more appealing by the addition of dry ice to emit carbon dioxide. These three features mimic a human host, drawing the mosquitoes close enough to be sucked into a net by a battery-powered fan. The captured mosquitoes are collected the next morning and sent to a laboratory for identification and disease testing. Tracking changes in the number of mosquitoes caught, species present, and disease trends over time provides the foundation for mosquito control activities in The Woodlands.

Learn more about mosquitoes and how to reduce the risk of mosquito-borne disease at http://www.thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov/MosquitoInfo. To report a mosquito concern email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov or call 281-210-3800.

Is There a Tiger in your Yard?

[Guest blog post & original art by Melissa Birdwell, EfTA Intern]

tiger text_mbirdwell2018

AMCA-18-Mosquito-AW-Banner-F

Tiger-Control Tips

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.