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Coalition formed to battle the enemy of the night

by Airman 1st Class Andrea Thacker
Thunderbolt editor

There are enemies lurking in and around the base. They operate under cover of darkness, attacking anyone at will. But that's about to change, as MacDill has teamed with Hillsborough County Mosquito Control to battle these annoying blood-sucking creatures.

The coalition of the bitten has agreed on procedures each will take to decrease the mosquito population on both sides of the gate. Because MacDill is located on the southern reaches of the Interbay Peninsula, neighboring the Tampa Bay community, it shares the mosquito problem.

Approximately half of the 5,200 acres that make up MacDill are potential breeding sites for mosquitoes and most of those acres are unimproved wetlands that have no or limited access for grounds treatment.

Dr. Richard Johnson is MacDill's pest management coordinator. He said mosquitoes lay their eggs only in or around water, some species preferring running water while others like woodland pools, marshes, swamps, estuaries, or in containers such as rain barrels or old tires.

The larvae are known as wrigglers because of their wriggling motion in the water. Small fish eat a large number of mosquito eggs and larvae, but not enough.

"The wetlands on MacDill, if not properly treated, can be a major mosquito breeding site for the base and South Tampa," said Johnson.

Adult surveillance counts from adjacent sites to MacDill suggest high populations that impact off-base residents. "It is critical that MacDill become pro-active with the support of HCMC in reducing the breeding sites," said William Murphy, American Services Technology Inc. project manager.

The easiest and most effective way to control the mosquito population is to catch them as larva by eliminating their breeding places or by spraying these places with larvacides, an insecticide designed to kill off mosquito larvae before they become adults, said Johnson.

"Once a larvae becomes an adult, it becomes harder to control them because the fogger is limited in the areas that can be reached," said Johnson. "So we try to wipe out the next generation of mosquitoes by killing their larvae."

Since MacDill doesn't survey the population of mosquitoes, it is critical that base residents recognize potential breeding areas and take steps to eliminate them, said Murphy.

"The first and most important is to eliminate any standing water around their houses, because one cup of water can breed more than one million mosquitoes," explained Murphy.

Next, residents should be sure places that harbor mosquitoes such as trash or cardboard be thrown away immediately. Making sure rain gutters and drain sites are properly cleaned will eliminate possible breeding sites. For more information contact the pest management office at 828-0844.

The battle to eliminate these pesky bugs may never be won, but mosquito control officials believe with perseverance a good deal of relief can be achieved by thinning the enemy's ranks.




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