Trap, Test and Treat: Efforts to Assess and Control Mosquito Population

By RJ Beck, Environmental Health Coordinator

In April 2017, it was predicted that America was about to be hit with a major infestation of ticks and mosquitoes, with the National Pest Management Association’s chief entomologist calling for a “pretty buggy spring and summer.”

Popular Science reported this year’s unusually warm winter—the sixth warmest ever recorded in the U.S.— would mean an insect boom was likely in most states.

In response to these predictions, the Environmental Health and Safety staff took action. In March, they began proactively placing mosquito larvicide to control the mosquito population at properties with historical recurring standing water complaints. Inspectors also responded to new complaints and through early October, 110 properties had been treated to decrease the population of adult mosquitoes (which are the ones that bite) in Northern Kentucky.

Local environmental health staff again worked with the Kentucky Department for Public Health to trap, identify and submit mosquitoes to the University of Kentucky Lab for testing. Traps were readied and site locations determined in early June. Staff set one trap in each county for 14 weeks (June 12 – Sept.15) and placed an additional trap in Kenton County for the last several weeks of the mosquito season.

Special thanks to “Ice Man,” (aka Tony Powell), who ensured a weekly supply of dry ice was available to be used in the traps as a mosquito attractant.

Traps were typically placed at specific locations on Tuesdays and retrieved on Wednesday mornings. Environmentalists Jimmy Newman, Tony Powell and Justin Hancock sorted mosquitoes from other insects and critters collected in the traps. Then, Environmentalist Bob McCandless identified mosquitoes to the species level and prepared them for testing.

A total of 1,528 mosquitoes were caught in the traps, with 15 different mosquito species were identified.

None of those trapped locally were the Aedes aegypti species, which is the primary carrier of Zika virus.

Testing at the UK lab to date has not found any positive pools, meaning no evidence of West Nile Virus, Zika virus, Chikungunya or Dengue fever was found in local samples.

Though the trapping season has came to a close for the 2017 season in September, inspectors continued to be on alert for reports of standing water until the first frost in late October. Further, staff worked to provide education about the risks of mosquito-borne diseases and steps we can all take to reduce the local population.