| Especially for the news press
The most common mosquito control question I heard on the campaign trail is, “Do we really need to use all of these chemicals?” The short answer is yes. Mosquito control protects us from diseases like malaria, Zika, and West Nile and makes SWFL more comfortable to live all year round. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that we can all help reduce the need for fogging in our homes. Whether you are concerned about the environment, potential health effects, or simply the financial cost to taxpayers, you can make a difference.
If you’ve lived here for a long time, you already know most of the advice: don’t have stagnant water in your yard, keep window bars in good condition, and wear long sleeves and insect repellant outdoors. However, there is another mosquito control method that you may not be familiar with: Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, or BTi.
BTi is a bacterium that prevents baby mosquitoes from growing into adults when it is used to inoculate the water in which they breed. It causes stomach ulcers in mosquito larvae, but is harmless to humans and most other organisms. Larvicides like BTi are less toxic than adulticides (which kill adult mosquitoes quickly), but they also take longer to work. It will not provide immediate relief from an infestation, but it is useful to clear mosquito breeding sites.
My wife loves bromeliads and has many in our garden, but they collect water for mosquitoes to multiply in. We started treating them with a commercially available BTi product called Mosquito Bits in May and there have been significantly fewer mosquitos in our garden since then. We also have some water features that have been treated with BTi as a substitute and it has been shown to be effective.
Home methods don’t eliminate the need for mosquito control, but they can reduce mosquitoes where you notice them most: in your home.
Safety concerns related to the operation of Mosquito Control are not unfounded but are sometimes overrated. The risk to residents is low, especially when compared to an outbreak of mosquito-borne diseases. Mosquito control workers who handle chemicals bear the greatest risk. Although trained professionals with adequate PPE, we can and should do all we can to reduce the need for toxic adulticides.
BTi is a simple, inexpensive treatment that can make your garden an inhospitable place for mosquitos to breed. If you have bromeliads, a water feature, or any other water collecting area that you can’t completely drain, I recommend giving it a try.
William P. Burke is a candidate for Lee County Mosquito Control Seat 5 and a Lee County teacher.