Plenty of companies and public agencies have been teaming up to protect against the threat of Zika virus in the U.S. Texas A&M Agrilife extension has been busy making presentations for people involved in vector control all over Texas, and on Thursday they held a workshop in Lubbock to continue spreading the latest research and technology for vector-borne diseases.
Vector control departments from Amarillo to Lubbock, as well as private pest control applicators and Ag. producers filed in to the Lubbock Agrilife Extension Office to hear about mosquito-carried diseases and the technology used to keep them at bay. Some of the vector control officers already have trapping and treating plans in place, others needed pointers on what traps to buy and how to find out whether Zika-carrying mosquitoes live in their area.
It’s clear to those working with the extension office that mosquitoes are a timely topic this year. Thursday, over 40 people were in attendance, and last year the workshop was canceled due to to low numbers.
Katelyn Kowles who works for the Texas A&M Agrilife extension in integrated pest management for Lubbock and Crosby Counties said this year she’s heard more concern and curiosity from the producers she’s worked with about mosquito-borne diseases.
“We had advertised this workshop in Lubbock last year but we only had 4 people show up. There wasn’t a lot of interest for a couple reasons, there was no threat of Zika virus in South and Central America or the United States and also we handn’t had a lot of rain,”
Kowles explaiend that the goal of the workshop was to work with leaders in vector control locally to help them passs along zika rrelated educatuion to the public
“Cities can have a huge role, they spray a lot, but a lot of the control is gonna happen in your back yard, the way mosquitoes produce, the larval and egg forms are gonna be in water,” she said.
Sonja Swiger from the state A&M Agrilife Office was also present at the Lubbock event, she’s been helping present educational material like this all over Texas. She has also seen a dramatic increase in concern about vector-borne illness.
“Zika [has] really changed the way people look at [mosquitoes] and it is really a big health concern. That’s how it goes whenever you’re dealing with a disease that effects pregnant women and unborn children as opposed to one where you get one where you just get a little bit of a flu or a little bit of a sickness,” Swiger said.
She demonstrated various mosquito traps and larvacide technologies to the room full of curious attendees. Swiger explained that Zika carrying mosquitoes present a number of hurdles for those trying to prevent the spread of the virus in the U.S. They have some behaviors which differ from West Nile-carrying mosquitoes.
“If you see them, they have come from somewhere close by, they do not travel far, we say they travel about a 1 to 3 block radius. It’s not a thing where if you get bit you can blame it on someone 6 miles down the road because that’s not where they came from, because they came from your yard or your immediate neighbors,” Swiger said. The limited radius that these mosquitoes can fly to means that individual homeowners play a big role in cutting down on neighborhood populations.
Richard Alvis with Plainview’s vector control said he didn’t realize that there were so many species of mosquitoes (there are thousands) until this workshop.
“It’s good information and hopefully we’ll get this out to our community and let them know that we’re doing all we can do to control the population of mosquitoes,” Alvis said.
Alvis said his next goal is to make sure property owners in the city of Plainview and on larger properties and farms there know how they can prevent more mosquitoes from breeding.
“Right now it’s more the municipal [residences we’re working on] but we would like to get out to the outlying communities. We do have a lot of farmland out there that does hold a lot of water and stuff, a potential breeding ground. So we would like to get with them and see if we can educate them a little bit on what they can do to help control the population,” Alvis said.
Swiger also works with many Ag, producers, she said they aren’t always aware of the things they can do on their land to prevent mosquito larvae.
“When you have cattle you can also have standing water, because some of the species will grow in the hoof prints that are left behind, and now that you’ve had rain, you’ll have moist soils they’ll leave those hoof prints and those will fill up and grow in those hoof prints.”
Her main message for everyone on the South Plains: remove standing water anywhere on your property before the mosquito populations start to rise this summer.