by Patrick Linn, MS, MSHAPI
Executive Director, Collier Mosquito Control District
More than 50 types of mosquitoes call Collier County their home, and just as some of our human residents are seasonal, so are a number of the mosquitoes. For example, if you reside in Naples during only the winter months, you’ll not likely meet some of our winged, biting residents that appear along the coastlines for a few months each spring: the Salt Marsh mosquito.
They are aggressive, large mosquitoes that breed in the mangrove-lined coastal area, and are known to travel up to 40 miles on winds as they search for their next blood meal. Some years, they are quite prolific – if not Biblical – in number. In 1988, thick clouds of the Salt Marsh mosquitoes suffocated cattle in the southern portion of the county by clogging their air passageways. While they are a local nuisance, we’re thankful they don’t spread human disease – but they can transmit dog heartworm.
As rains increase during the summer months, Culex mosquito species make their presence known throughout the county. These mosquitoes prefer to breed in water that most humans consider very odorous and undesirable (e.g., storm drains, stagnant pools, water treatment retention, etc.). This mosquito is one of great concern due to its ability to transmit West Nile virus to humans and horses. In 2021, our scientists detected more than 25 mosquito traps with West Nile-positive mosquitoes in them, and the Collier Department of Health reported four human cases of the disease. It also prompted the Florida Department of Health to issue a mosquito-borne illness alert for the county for three months.
When cooler temperatures arrive in Southwest Florida, along with drier conditions, the Culex species slow their breeding activities and numbers greatly decrease. That doesn’t mean our operations cease, though. A number of mosquito species are present year-round, and some of them are our greatest concern, particularly the Aedes mosquitoes. The Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes feed on humans, live around humans, and breed in containers of water found near humans. In other words, you won’t find them in unpopulated areas. They are closely monitored 12 months a year because of the diseases they can potentially transmit, including yellow fever, Zika, and dengue.
In 2021, our entomologist identified three mosquito species new to Collier County, likely the result of our changing climate since they’ve normally been seen in more tropical environments. Of the three, the Aedes scapularis is of greatest interest. As with the other two Aedes mosquitoes, it is capable of transmitting human disease; but unlike the other two Aedes, it feeds on both humans
Want to know more about the science behind mosquito control? Looking for someone to speak to your group’s next meeting? Visit the District’s website at cmcd.org or call 239.436.1000.