Mosquito control district warns about upcoming mosquito season

A field technician spraying foliage along Main Street. Photo by Crystal Apilado/Winters Express

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The local mosquito control district shared an update regarding a busy mosquito season following the wet season earlier this year at the May 16 Winters City Council meeting.

Luz Maria Robles, the Public Information Officer for the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito Vector Control District, shared an annual Winters Mosquito Control update in the run-up to mosquito season. Herself a Winters native, Robles spoke to the council about what the mosquito district does to deal with mosquitos and how the community can help.

Robles described what she and her organization do, saying “We are the local district in charge of protecting public health for all of the residents in Sacramento and Yolo counties” with their job being “mainly (to) protect the residents of Sacramento and Yolo County from the various mosquito-transmitted diseases.”

Regarding the coming summer, Robles noted “It’s been a super wet, rainy season, and it promises to be an even busier mosquito season,”

“Every year we try and come here to give an update,” Robles stated. “And it’s especially important that I come to give an update because here in Winters you have invasive mosquitos.”

Last year, Winters hosted the largest Aedes aegypti infestation since its discovery in September 2019. The invasive container-breeding mosquito is an aggressive species that prefers to bite people during the day and has the potential to transmit serious diseases including Zika, dengue and chikungunya. 

The district uses an integrated mosquito management approach that includes public information campaigns and dialogues like Robles’ presentation to the council, surveillance of local populations for diseases like West Nile virus, biological control for raising and releasing mosquito-eating fish, ecological management to provide landowners tools to manage mosquito breeding areas on their property, and chemical control who respond to service requests and do inspections around the district. 

Though to most people “a mosquito is a mosquito,” Robles explained but there are different varieties with different breeding habits and respective dangers, with invasive species like Aedes aegypti only needing “a bottle cap of water…to breed,” and that these smaller water sources in people’s backyards and properties are more difficult to manage than creeks and farms.

“The kiddie pools, the dog dishes, the flower pots, that’s why we always ask that at least once a week people look around their yard and inspect it and dump out any stagnant water because that’s going to go a long way to eliminate those mosquito breeding sources,” Robles said.

According to Robles, This is compounded by recent rainfall in the area, as “with a lot of rain, that means a lot of stagnant water” which combined with the already high temperatures “basically creates mosquito heaven.” 

“Typically the height of mosquito season is usually June, July (and) August, with the invasives it’s a little bit different, those tend to be active in the fall, but overall it’s definitely going to be a very busy mosquito season,” Robles said.

Typically, the main concern for the mosquito district is West Nile virus, with 208 cases last year leading to 13 deaths in the district, though Robles noted that there were no cases among birds or people in Winters last year. 

However, an emerging concern for the district is a number of invasive mosquito species, the Yellow Fever Mosquito and the Asian Tiger Mosquito. These species have been spreading north from southern California and in recent years have been spotted in Winters, and are different from native mosquitos for their aggressive day-biting preferences and the diseases they carry like Zika, dengue, and chikungunya, as well as their ability to breed in very small amounts of stagnant water, as little as a teaspoon. The eggs they lay can also survive having the water they were laid in removed, being able to remain dormant without water for up to six months. 

These factors contribute to the vigilance that the mosquito district has to maintain to keep these invasive species under control, and Robles urged the council and the community of Winters to be amenable to officials from the district searching backyards and properties for mosquito populations. 

Gar House, the city’s representative for the Mosquito Control Vector District, also reiterated the importance of the district’s work as well as its quality, calling the district “a well-known organization that’s looked up to throughout the state and the nation, and even worldwide” noting that most recently the Elk Grove district facility was visited by officials from Kenya and Ghana.

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