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How rising temperatures and climate change can enable mosquitos

While scientists and non-scientists debate the specifics of climate change, one thing is for certain. There is not a single coffee shop, supermarket line, backyard gathering, or bus stop where people aren’t talking about the weather.

In South Florida, the comments are often about the heat and extreme weather – how early the warm days started, how late in the year they seem to be lingering, how strong the storms and hurricanes have been, and how much rain we’ve received. And these very noticeable weather issues create unique mosquito problems.

Zika incubation, mosquitoes, and climate

Not every Aedes aegypti mosquito carries Zika. It first has to bite an infected person, and that pathogen must have time to incubate before it becomes viable in the saliva of the female mosquito.

In order for that incubation period to be successful, there is a very fine balancing act with the lifespan of the mosquito – and that balance can be easily influenced by outside temperature. Warmer weather will speed up incubation, but can also shorten a mosquito’s already short life. Cooler weather can lengthen the incubation period to better coincide with the female mosquito’s egg production and the need for blood.

Cold weather and mosquitos

It’s already fairly common knowledge that mosquitos love a warm, moist climate. That’s a big reason why South Florida, in particular, is a haven for mosquito species.

In northern areas of the country, winters that drop below freezing can wipe out some mosquito populations, including the ones that spread Zika, Dengue, and Yellow Fever.

While climate change can certainly mean below-freezing temperatures in some parts of the country, it also means that winters in other areas are getting warmer, thereby decreasing the chances of eradicating mosquito species and increasing the time period when mosquitos are most active.

In other words, some areas of the country may experience mosquitos in spring and fall rather than a summer marked by dryness, while other areas may have a three-season transmission season. South Florida may experience year-round transmission.

Miami and Zika: A warning from West Nile

In many ways, each outbreak of a disease is considered a warning shot. It’s imperative to learn about transmission, treatment, and management. While Zika may have primarily been a South Florida event, one only needs to look at West Nile and its spread to fully appreciate and understand how climate can quickly and fatally change the playing field.

  • 1999: West Nile makes its first appearance in the United States, infecting 17 people in New York City.
  • 2002: Dallas experienced an outbreak, sickening 202 people and killing 13. From there, the virus moved to the West Coast.
  • 2011: One reported infection in Dallas.
  • 2012: Dallas experiences a second outbreak. More than 1,100 people tested positive for West Nile, 216 were hospitalized, and 19 were killed.

When compiling data on the second outbreak, researchers discovered that the months leading up to the outbreak were the warmest winter, the warmest spring, and the heaviest rainfall in 10 years. Mosquitos survived the winter. Their population swelled. They emerged earlier. They bit in greater numbers.

Complacency is not an option

One of the major lessons learned in Texas was that complacency was an enemy. During the 2002 outbreak, people were scared and thus took great precautions to decrease mosquito populations. In the ten years leading up to the second outbreak, West Nile wasn’t the lead story on the news and so residents let down their guard.

We cannot afford to let that happen with Zika in South Florida. That’s why Platinum Mosquito Protection continues to stress the need for home and business owners to remain vigilant on their properties. To aid those efforts, we offer an automatic mosquito misting system.

To learn how to live a life without mosquitos, contact us today for a free onsite consultation.

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