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The best way to prevent Zika in your backyard

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The best way to prevent Zika in your backyard

Published on October 18, 2016

Aedes aegypti 400
Day active mosquito Aedes aegypti Credit: Muhammad Mahdi Karim

The potential spread of Zika virus has many people around the world asking the question – how do we best protect ourselves from this mosquito borne disease?

Fortunately, only two of the more than 3,500 mosquito species found worldwide carry the Zika virus, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. Both of these species are active mainly at dusk or dawn but are not typically flying around at night. This poses a problem if you are relying on bats to help prevent the spread of this infectious disease as our nocturnal neighbors have few opportunities to feed on them.

“Most bats are actually generalist predators, meaning they eat whatever they can catch—moth, beetle, mosquito, or otherwise,” says Winfred Frick, Senior Director of Conservation Science at Bat Conservation International (BCI). Installing a bat house is a great way to support our bats that are currently under threat from their own disease problem with White-nose Syndrome, explains Frick, but it may not be the best way to prevent Zika.

“With these mosquitoes being most active just during dusk or dawn, it is a bit unrealistic to rely on bats to prevent the risk of the Zika virus. The best way to prevent the spread of the disease would in fact be to stop mosquitoes breeding in the first place,” says Frick.

While some groups in North America are advocating use of pesticides to reduce mosquitoes, this poses a whole new concern not only for human health, but bats and other wildlife as well.

“I’d worry that the collateral damage of extensive pesticide spraying could have very dire impacts on bats as well as other wildlife,” says Frick.

To reduce the need for large scale pesticide spraying, Bat Conservation International and EcoHealth Alliance encourages communities to help reduce the mosquito population through simple and, wherever possible, natural methods.

“Simply removing standing water from around your home and following safe water storage tips can make a huge difference by reducing larval habitat for mosquitoes,” says Kevin Olival, Associate Vice President for Research at EcoHealth Alliance.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advocate for removing potential mosquito breeding grounds from around the home using the following tips.

Here’s what you can do to help control mosquitoes in your backyard

Once a week, empty and scrub, turn over, cover, or throw out any items that hold water like tires, buckets, planters, toys, pools, birdbaths, flowerpot saucers, or trash containers. Mosquitoes lay eggs near water.

  • Tightly cover water storage containers (buckets, cisterns, rain barrels) so that mosquitoes cannot get inside to lay eggs.
  • For containers without lids, use wire mesh with holes smaller than an adult mosquito.
  • Use larvicides to treat large containers of water that will not be used for drinking and cannot be covered or dumped out.

Use an outdoor insect spray made to kill mosquitoes in areas where they rest.

  • Mosquitoes rest in dark, humid areas like under patio furniture, or under the carport or garage. When using insecticides, always follow label instructions.

If you have a septic tank, repair cracks or gaps. Cover open vent or plumbing pipes. Use wire mesh with holes smaller than an adult mosquito.

For more information on how to protect you and your family from Zika virus please visit the Centers for Disease Control.

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