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Let's Talk About ... Mosquitoes

Mosquito Feeding on HostMosquito bites can be more than just mere nuisances. They can cause serious disease. Protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites by applying mosquito repellant and making your neighborhood less inviting for mosquitoes.

Tips to Make Your Home and Yard Less Mosquito-Friendly

  • Pour out standing water, and remove containers that can hold water;
  • Keep gutters clean and in good repair;
  • Repair leaky outdoor faucets and change the water in bird baths and pet bowls at least twice a week; and
  • Check window and door screens.

Below are answers to frequently asked questions related to mosquitoes and WNV and links to additional resources on the topic. For additional information or to submit a mosquito complaint, please call 704-336-5101.

What is West Nile virus?

West Nile virus(WNV) is a mosquito-transmitted virus which can cause disease in birds, humans, and horses. It is a natural disease in bird populations. About 1 in 150 people exposed to WNV will develop the severe form of the disease, called encephalitis, which affects the central nervous system. Many people exposed to WNV suffer no affects while others may experience mild to moderate flu-like symptoms. There is no human vaccine for this disease. By December 2003, this disease had been identified in 48 states. Information on WNV is available at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/index.htm.

What are the symptoms of West Nile virus?

Most humans and animals that are infected with West Nile virus will not have any symptoms.  About 20% of the people who have the virus will develop West Nile fever.  The symptoms for West Nile fever are also fairly mild.  These include fever, headache, body aches, and occasionally a skin rash on the trunk of the body and swollen glands.  These symptoms usually last only for a few days and do not have any long-term health effects.  West Nile encephalitis or meningitis ("encephalitis" and "meningitis" mean inflammation to different parts of the brain and spinal cord) is the most severe form of infection.  Those symptoms include severe headache, high fever, stiff neck, disorientation, convulsions, paralysis, and coma. 

Who is most at risk for getting the worst kind, the West Nile encephalitis?

People over the age of 50 have the highest risk of severe disease.  But if the virus has been identified in an area, all residents of that area are at some risk. 

What other animals get infected with WNV?

Besides birds, the virus has been identified in horses, cats, bats, chipmunks, skunks, squirrels, and domestic rabbits.  Just recently it has been found in dogs. WNV is transmitted by infectious mosquitoes.  There is no documented evidence that the virus is transmitted from animal to person. 

What should I do if I find a dead bird?

When a dead bird is found, it should be secured, regardless of whether it will be tested for WNV. Stray cats, dogs, children etc. may pickup a bird if left unprotected. No animal carcass should ever be handled directly. Always use either a shovel or similar device to pickup. The following 'best practices' should be adhered to with dead birds:

  1. Wear disposable gloves or comparable. Place bird in plastic bag, then double bag with another bag.

  2. Place in an approved solid waste disposal container (NOTE: different municipalities and private companies have different rules on this). The Health Department does not provide dead bird disposal.

  3. Wash hands thoroughly after handling.

How do mosquitoes breed and how long do they live? 

Mosquitoes start out as an egg laid by females in standing water. In water, this egg then develops into several larval and pupal stages before emerging as an adult mosquito. They can go from egg to adult in 7-14 days. Most adult mosquitoes live for only a few weeks. However, some mosquitoes can overwinter (several months) in an adult stage.

I have noticed most of the mosquitoes at my house are coming from the bushes. Will removing those bushes take care of my mosquito problem?

While brush and tall grass can provide shade and "harborage" for adult mosquitoes, they are not considered to be the cause of the problem. All mosquito problems begin with standing water. The best way to control a mosquito problem is to locate standing water on or near your property and eliminate those as a mosquito breeding source.

How can I eliminate mosquito breeding sources?

There are two types of breeding sources for mosquitoes. Natural and Artificial. Natural mosquito breeding sources include non-flowing or poorly maintained storm water ditches and basins, flood plains and other low areas in the topography, and other basin where water can pond and does not contain fish. In Mecklenburg County, more than 1300 of these 'natural areas have been identified and are periodically surveyed and/or treated for mosquitoes. Artificial mosquito breeding sources (referred to as 'artificial containers') consists of anything that is man-made with the capacity to hold at least ¼ of an inch of water. This includes buckets, boats, birdbaths, tarps, rimless tires, inoperative swimming pools, gutters, and trash cans. Artificial mosquito breeding sources can be eliminated by regularly emptying, inverting, or removing the source.

What is the most common cause of mosquito problems in Mecklenburg County?

Artificial Containers. In an urban environment, containers present the most common cause for mosquito problems. For example, one five-gallon bucket can produce hundreds of mosquitoes in a ten day period. Since some mosquitoes travel no more than a few hundred feet from their breeding source, one bucket can cause mosquito problems for a lot of people.

I can't go outside for more than a few minutes without getting "swarmed" by a small black mosquito with white stripes. What is that? 

There are a number of black mosquitoes, but the most common, and most troublesome, is the Asian Tiger Mosquito. The Asian Tiger Mosquito comes almost exclusively from artificial containers and unlike many mosquitoes, will bite throughout the day. The only permanent way to get rid of those is to  eliminate artificial containers.

Does Mecklenburg County take mosquito complaints?

Yes. To register a mosquito complaint, please call 704-336-5101.

How does Mecklenburg County control mosquitoes?

By both educating residents and citizens on how mosquito breeding can be prevented as well as by direct control methods. There are over 1300 natural (ditches, floodways, etc.) sites that are treated with biological and chemical larvicide agents throughout the mosquito season. These sites, under average rain and temperature conditions, will breed mosquitoes throughout the year unless treated. Artificial breeding sites are controlled through education and, in some cases, enforcement.

What is a larvicide?

A larvicide is a chemical or biological agent used to kill mosquitoes in their immature stage of development. These products are applied to standing water, or areas expected to be flooded with water, and are considered more preventive and long-term than adulticiding (or "fogging") where pesticides are applied to kill adult mosquitoes.

What is "fogging" and why doesn't Mecklenburg County do more of it?

Adulticiding, or "fogging", is the application of a pesticide into the atmosphere for the purpose of killing adult mosquitoes. Mecklenburg County restricts using the atmospheric application of pesticides as its primary control method for a number of reasons. One reason is that "fogging" does not control emerging mosquito populations as effectively as larviciding. Larvicides control mosquitoes at the source while they are still in a non-biting stage, allowing for longer lasting effects. Adulticiding only works against adult mosquitoes and once the next generation hatches, the problem returns, sometimes as soon as a few days after "fogging". A second reason is that in highly urbanized settings, effective adulticiding is most effective by aerial application which the county is not equipped to provide. There are also concerns with killing non-target insects and human pesticide sensitivity.

Is the storm water drainage system a breeding ground for mosquitoes?

The storm water drainage system is designed to convey storm water. If properly installed and maintained, water will flow. Flowing waters are not a breeding source for mosquitoes. However, poor design, installation, or maintenance can and will cause water to pond and this does create mosquito breeding. If there are blockages in the drainage system that cause water not to flow, citizens can call 704-336-RAIN for drainage system service requests.



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