After heavy rains in North Texas, officials warn of mosquito-borne diseases

The constant rainy weather may be over, but that means mosquitoes are out in full force, and it’s time to take precautions.

Sunday marks the start of National Mosquito Control Awareness week, and according to the American Mosquito Control Association’s website, it is imperative to get rid of standing water by regularly cleaning pets water bowls, emptying flowerpots and refilling bird baths at least once a week.

Sonja Swiger, a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service entomologist and associate professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department in Stephenville, said standing water is everywhere after the recent heavy rains, and it’s important for residents to dump any stagnant water on their property as it is a prime breeding ground for mosquitoes.

However, water is still in ditches and the lakes are full, creating even more places for the insects to leave their eggs, she said.

“Because of the amount of heavy rain we’ve had, and how widespread it is, that leads to more mosquitoes this year,” she said.

“We’ve had a lot of calls. I know people are aware,” she said.

One of the most prevalent concerns in North Texas is West Nile virus, transmitted by the Culex quinquefasciatus mosquitoes. They often bite between dusk and dawn.

As people are venturing out as COVID restrictions are lifted, it is important to remember to take precautions against getting bitten, she said.

The National Mosquito Control Association recommends wearing pants, long-sleeved shirts, and light-colored clothing and to wear repellents with DEET or oil of lemon-eucalyptus.

There is no West Nile vaccine for humans, she said.

The Tarrant County Public Health Department and area cities provide resources for educating the public about mosquitoes and how people can do their part to control them.

The county also provides traps to cities which set them in strategic locations and bring samples to the county for testing for West Nile virus pools. If the samples are positive, the county will inform the cities so that officials can alert residents and to decide whether to ground spray or take other measures to get rid of the mosquitoes.

The county provides an interactive map showing where the positive samples are located.

In Haltom City, Environmental Services Manager Oleksandra Bikman said in an email that Tarrant County sent a notification this week stating that officials are seeing an unusually large number of mosquitoes in the traps.

Bikman said that Haltom City has an approach similar to Tarrant County, including regularly testing samples from traps for the West Nile and St. Louis Encephalitis viruses, using larvicide in areas where mosquitoes breed.

So far, there haven’t been positive results for West Nile, Bikman said. However, if the city receives information about a positive sample, then the area will be sprayed within a half mile radius of the trap.

Arlington spokeswoman Susan Schrock said the city also monitors traps between April and November, and if there is a positive result for West Nile or St. Louis Encephalitis, a contractor will spray a half-mile radius in the area where the positive sample was found for two consecutive nights.

So far, Arlington has not gotten a positive test sample. If so, the city will notify residents of the ground spraying through social and news media.

Arlington also uses larvicide and encourages people to drain standing water, dress in long sleeves and use a repellent with DEET.

It may be hard to believe, but the pesky mosquitoes do serve a purpose, Swiger said.

“They are a food source for other small animals, and they play a small role in pollination as they feed on nectar,” Swiger said.

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