How do I get the city to spray for mosquitoes?
Defending against mosquitoes takes a concerted effort by the city's seven-member mosquito team, as well as each one of us. For the record, the city focuses on the use of bio-larvicides, which are made of naturally occurring bacteria that keep juvenile mosquitoes from developing. Ultra-low volume truck-mounted sprays are used when necessary in areas with adult mosquito problems. However, even the milder form of pesticides like organic pyrethrins and synthetic pyrethroids will affect other beneficial insects and the environment. The city notifies beekeepers and residents with sensitivities, and focuses spraying efforts when mosquitoes carrying disease are found. However, the Asian tiger mosquito — a non-native species introduced in 1993 — is one of our biggest problems, and is not affected by spraying. The aggressive daytime biter breeds in backyard containers, which each of us need to be vigilant and dump weekly.
Q: How many different mosquitoes do we have in Hampton?
A: We have about 35 different species — and many of them require different types of controls. The different varieties breed in different areas:
- Artificial containers. About half of all calls are because of mosquitoes, such as the Asian tiger mosquito, that breed in even small amounts of water. Residents are urged to dump even
small amounts of standing water weekly to prevent breeding.
- Freshwater storm systems. Ditches are cleaned periodically to ensure the water can flow, but mosquitoes can become a mosquito habitat if water sits still.
- Salt marshes. Hampton has more than 1,700 acres of salt marsh, which produce almost half the city's mosquitoes.
- Temporary woodland pools. Heavy and frequent rains can create pools in woodland areas, such as the large lot behind Virginia Peninsula Community College.
Q: What kinds of diseases do mosquitoes carry?
A: While Zika captures the public attention, there have been no cases of "local transmission" in Virginia. However, we do see cases of Eastern equine encephalitis and West Nile virus, as well as dog heartworms.
Q: How do we know when diseases are out there?
A: The city's mosquito experts — the Environmental Services Team — is busy during the season trapping and checking the number of mosquitoes in trouble spots. They test them for diseases. The city's control efforts increase when diseases reach certain thresholds.
Q: How can we as citizens prevent mosquitoes?
A: The most effective prevention is to dump standing water, at least weekly. Clean rain gutters to ensure water flows. Check drain extenders, toys, pots under plants, tarps and covers, wheelbarrows, etc. Mosquitoes can breed in something as small as a bottle cap. If you have water you can't dump, there are natural techniques — such as minnows that eat mosquitoes, commonly called "mosquito fish" or biorational larvicides (mosquito dunks) that stop mosquitoes from developing. It's also important to cover up and/or use effective insect repellents when you are outside.
Q: What does the city do to reduce the mosquito population?
A: Prevention includes applying the bio-pesticides mentioned above in larger public areas to treat fresh water. The mosquito team also works with the stormwater teams to identify and then clean ditches and other parts of the stormwater system.
Q: What about spraying?
A: The city uses truck-mounted ultra-low-volume spraying using synthetic pyrethroids. Sprays are done in the evening hours when many mosquitoes are most active, only when there's little wind, and not over bodies of water. Read more about city mosquito spraying.
Q: Doesn't that damage other insects?
A: Yes, and that's why we use it only when necessary. Beekeepers, environmentalists, and citizens with allergies are kept on a no-spray list designed to minimize effect on specific areas within the city. If you want to be on that list, call 727-8311. Call the mosquito hotline at 757-727-8415 for an update on the spray schedule.
Q: Can't we ask the Air Force to do aerial spraying?
A: The military makes the decision to spray when the federal installations are having problems. When there is availability, the military may offer to spray nearby areas. Hampton has a contingency plan for aerial spraying, should that become needed, whether the military is available or not. Those aerial sprays generally are at night, targeting the salt marsh mosquitoes. However, those aerial sprays and truck sprays don't stop the Asian tiger mosquito. It's up to each of us to "tip and toss" containers in our own yards to stop those mosquitoes from breeding.
Q: Are there natural methods to control mosquitoes?
A: Supporting natural predators is one way. Mosquito fish may be effective in freshwater ponds. You can install a purple martin house or bat house to encourage those natural predators. Dragonflies are also a natural predator, eating both adult mosquitoes and their larvae.