This past summer we saw a spark of concern when Olympic athletes refused to go to Rio over the knowledge of the Zika virus being prominent. That was when Zika became a buzz word in America, and several southern states started to promote awareness. From Disneyland giving out free bug spray to their attendees, to the CDC advising pregnant women to air caution to unnecessary trips to Miami, Zika made itself well known to us in the States. Many were hoping that with the Fall and Winter season, we would get some sort of break from the Zika scare. Not only has that proven to be untrue, but mosquito populations have been on the rise in Northern states.
Rise of Mosquito Populations
The States this has been noted in the most is California, New Jersey, and New York, and it can be quoted the increase has been ten-fold over the last five decades. The reason? It’s most attributed to the decrease in DDT levels as we move away from it’s use, combined with climate change temperature increases, and urbanization.
“DDT” stands for dichloro-diphenyl-trichloro-ethane, a once commonly used insecticide in the United States. It was discovered during WWII, and not only prevented pests, but also the transmissions of diseases (malaria and typhus being two examples). It was since banned for it’s extremely negative affects on the environment and animals that weren’t intentionally targeted by it. It’s notably known for being a carcinogen in humans, as well as affecting reproductive systems in all animals; however, even WHO has labeled the insecticide as the most effective and allows countries to decide if its use is right for them. The affects of DDT impacted the insect population in America so much, in some areas it took 30 to 40 years for the mosquito populations to recover. Since we have not used DDT since, the recovering populations are starting to rise.
Climate change is also a factor, but not nearly as much as you might think. The increase of temperatures means areas that are typically colder sooner, NY and NJ for example, are allowing insects to survive longer before it gets cold enough to warrant hibernation. This partially explains why they are thriving more in the areas than usual, while States that are usually more mixed in temperatures such as NC are not experiencing this. While this sort of thing is expected with climate change, this has acted as a catalyst with the decreasing levels of DDT and urbanization.
Urbanization may sound strange to mention as a cause for the rise of mosquitoes, but studies have shown that it is a huge factor of what species we encounter. The main mosquito we are looking at is the Aedes aegypti, a species of mosquito that thrives in warmer temperatures and heavily populated ares for food. It was once little concern for places like NYC where the tropical insect couldn’t survive the consistent cold temperatures or DDT, but the risk is starting to increase. This specific species is known for being carriers of several diseases such as West Nile and the infamous Zika, but has yet to actually make it’s way into the United States
Where do we stand on Zika now?
Earlier this summer we were all looking at the southern States in hesitation, wondering if anything would start to seriously migrate through the states and become problematic. Again, the winter has caused a lull in concerns regarding insect activity in general, but it’s now that the news of Zika striking in unusual places has begun. Before, we only had reports of Zika in Miami, Florida via mosquito migration, but travel outside the U.S. also encourages the spread of Zika. It wasn’t until November that we would see it strike in Texas, but outside of natural migration of mosquito transmission, almost every state has reported accounts of Zika due to traveling. New York has an usual reported 942 cases, compared to North Carolina with only 89 cases, showing exactly the risk the northern states are facing. It’s worth noting that New York’s numbers are only 20 accounts less than Florida’s cases from traveling and mosquito migration combined.
North Carolina may find itself sitting between a rock and a hard spot of the northern and southern States of the East Coast reporting Zika cases, but Florida has been fast acting on this front. It’s been reported that areas of Miami have successfully recovered and exterminated accounts of Zika, and that one of the beaches will be uplifted of it’s ban, marking one of the last locations to have been sealed off due to Zika concerns. While this seems to be good news, back in NYC there have been reports of infants to have suffered from Zika related mental illnesses, showing that this battle with Zika isn’t over yet.
If you’re looking to learn more on Zika, you can always check out the CDC’s official page for Zika. It has records of all cases accounted for within the United States, the history of the disease, the migratory pattern of mosquito carriers, and much more. You can also read up on more about the controversy regarding Rio and the American Olyimpic Athletes here, or read our article to learn more about Zika here. Of course, if you have any concerns about the mosquito population around your home and want to do something about it, you should always contact your local pest control company. They’re can regularly tend to your home and ensure that you’re not just free of insects in general, but also safe from the risks of Zika and other diseases carried by these pests.