Big Cypress National Preserve Pests

The preserve has the aggressive black salt marsh mosquito Aedes taeniorhynchus. Of the 40 or so species known in south Florida, this mosquito has the distinction of being the most troublesome. In addition to being serious pests, they are natural and potential vectors of important viruses and parasites that attack both man and animals; they can cause dog heartworm. Female mosquitoes, depending on species, may lay eggs on standing water in groups called rafts, or individually on moist soil. All mosquito eggs need water to hatch. One square foot of salt marsh may contain over 10,000 salt marsh mosquito eggs waiting for a high tide or heavy rain to cause them to hatch. Tiny aquatic wigglers, called larvae, hatch from the eggs. They are found in shallow water, either fresh or salt, depending on the species. As the mosquito larvae grow, they shed their outer skin (exoskeleton). Larvae then develop into pupae, which represent the last underwater stage. During this stage of development, all of the adult characteristics are being formed. As the adult mosquito begins to emerge, the pupa rests at the top of the water's surface to allow its wings and body parts to dry. Within a few hours, the mosquito flies off for a blood meal. Only the female bites. Protein acquired in the blood meal is used for egg development. Some mosquitoes can hatch in as little as one week. Where water must be available - as for pets and other animals - it is necessary to change the water and flush out the container at least once a week to disrupt the breeding cycle of mosquitoes.

To protect your person from mosquitoes, try the following: Wear protective clothing such as long pants, long-sleeved shirt, shoes and socks during times and in locations of high mosquito incidence. Be aware that mosquitoes can bite right through T-shirts and other lightweight, tight-fitting clothing. During periods of excessively high mosquito incidence, stay indoors as much as possible. Use insect repellent before going into high-risk areas or when outside during high-risk times. The most effective protection may be obtained through the use of products containing at least 20 to 30 percent diethyl toluamide (DEET). Some people may be sensitive to DEET and experience skin reactions such as rashes. A very small number of more serious cases involving children (including a few deaths) have been reported that may have been linked to the repellent. For this reason, health officials recommend that products containing DEET not be used on children age 5 and under. Those with concerns should consult their family physician or pediatrician. For those who are sensitive to DEET, products containing oil of citronella may provide an alternative. Follow the directions carefully and do not over apply. Mosquitoes will bite unprotected skin, so apply repellent to all exposed areas of the body as well as to your clothing. Don't allow repellent to get in your eyes, mouth or nose. Do not rely on electronic bug killers or ultrasonic repellents for protection. They have not been shown to be effective. When in high-risk locations or during high-risk times, do not wear perfumed soaps, sprays, or other sweet smelling formulas that might attract mosquitoes. Keep window screens and screened rooms in good repair. Screen doors should open outward and have automatic closing devices and latches to prevent them from being accidentally left ajar. Extra care should be taken with children under age 5, adults over age 55 and those with weakened immune systems due to chronic illness. Those populations are at greater risk from mosquito-borne diseases. Studies have shown that those who take precautions are much less likely to be at risk from mosquito-borne diseases.

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