Dealing with Zika and Aedes aegypti

Now is the time for Floridians to take precautions to help minimize the occurrence of the Zika virus. As you are aware, while Zika is not yet known to have been transmitted within Florida, Miami-Dade County leads the nation in reported cases, as travelers who have contracted the virus while away from the country return to, or pass through, our area. However, given our hot and rainy summer climate, it is only a matter of time before Zika starts to be transmitted locally.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito is the species most likely to spread Zika. The most effective preventive step you can take to minimize the virus – or any other mosquito-borne disease – is to eliminate standing water on your property. Mosquitoes can breed in even tiny receptacles, so be sure to inspect your property thoroughly to eliminate those risks.

Of course, there are places on the property of many individuals where water collects intentionally and not as the result of neglect. They include fishponds, birdbaths, and bromeliads. Fortunately, there are methods for treating those decorative features. A product that we use at Richard Lyons’ Nursery is Mosquito Bits, a larvicide. Its primary active ingredient is Bacillus thuringiensis ssp. israelensis, Strain 144. Bti, as it is known for short, is a biological control, and the manufacturer of Mosquito Bits claims that its product “will give a quick kill within 24 hours.” The product label further states that it “can be applied to areas that contain aquatic life, fish and plants.” You can read the entire label at  http://www.summitchemical.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Mosquito-Bits-30oz.-Label.pdf.

When it comes to bromeliads in particular, it should be of some comfort to know that they are not the favorite habitat for Aedes aegypti. A University of Florida publication (http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/frank/bromeliadbiota/mosbrom4.htm) advises that the species prefers lower lighting than what occurs in bromeliad tanks. Moreover, the two mosquito species most prominently found in bromeliads, belonging to the genus Wyeomiya, are not known to spread disease in humans. A companion UF article (http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/frank/bromeliadbiota/mosbrom5.htm) states that Bacillus sphaericus has some advantages over Bti.

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