Only cold will save you

This doesn't qualify as a mosquito emergency: Officials explain why the beasts aren't being sprayed

This doesn't qualify as a mosquito emergency: Officials explain why the beasts aren't being sprayed

Mosquito
Many Houston residents are feeling the sting of mosquitoes after the rains.  Courtesy photo
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Harris County will be spraying in northeast Houston after a mosquito there tested postive for West Nile.  Photo courtesy of KHOU
Mosquito
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Did you know that Harris County has an entire department in the Public Health & Environmental Services sector to combat mosquitoes?

It's called the Mosquito Control Division, and it employs an estimated 50 or 60 workers — some full time, some seasonal. The mosquito problem in the Houston area is evidently bad enough to warrant a staff of that size.

But we've been hearing that the current 'skeeter plague is apparently not sufficient for that department to spring into action. Unlike Harris, the counties of Fort Bend, Galveston and Brazoria are spraying, waging all-out assaults on the buzzy biters.

CultureMap got in touch with Sandy Kachur, senior public information officer for Harris County, who set the record straight on a few things.

"What's going on now is that we have pest or nuisance mosquitoes, not disease mosquitoes. We only spray when an emergency is declared," Kachur says of Harris County's approach.

 "What's going on now is that we have pest or nuisance mosquitoes, not disease mosquitoes," Sandy Kuchar says. "We only spray when an emergency is declared." 

The "floodwater" mosquitoes, though aggravating to us, rarely carry St. Louis encephalitis or West Nile Virus. If a diseased mosquito is found in one of the county's 286 traps, Harris County does spray the infected area and adjacent neighborhoods until the problem has been mitigated.

The Mosquito Control Division has been busy this summer and into the fall, with 600 positive samples of diseased mosquitoes this year. Compare that to the 250 mosquitoes that tested positive for disease last year. This is yet another problem that we can attribute to the drought.

As Kachur explained, the lack of rain has resulted in fewer water sources, so birds and mosquitoes — which need the birds' blood to lay their eggs — must vie for the same resources. Infection is passed rapidly this way between birds and insects, and to humans if not addressed quickly. 

So the division does continue to spray for mosquitoes (just not specifically for those that are making you itch this week), and posts a map of the proposed treatment areas each day.

"The colder weather should decrease or lessen the mosquito activity," Kachur says of the impending cold front. "They will kind of die back."

Until then, Houstonians must fend for themselves: Consult our list of helpful hints. Wear long sleeves. Empty all vessels of standing water. Stock up on insect repellent, if and when you find it.

And take special care of your pets, since "floodwater" mosquitoes are prone to spread heartworm.

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