‘Ankle’ mosquito is pesky, but not fatal

| October 3, 2019 | 0 Comments

MOSQUITOES are on the rise in Los Angeles County.

There’s a new kid in town, and while not seriously dangerous, this mosquito is a pest.

Called the aedes mosquito, it is small with black-and-white stripes and comes out in daytime as well as at night, and is said to fly and bite low.

“We call him the ankle mosquito,” said Bob Saviskas, executive director of the Los Angeles County West Vector & Vector-Borne Disease Control District.

This little fellow arrived in Los Angeles County in 2012, in El Monte, and has slowly spread in all directions.

“They’re more of a pest than anything else,” said Saviskas. While an aggressive biter, there’s never been a transmission from them of the Zika virus, dengue fever or other diseases.

That’s because, “The sources are people, and [the mosquitoes]  just don’t have that many people to pick it up from.” (Infected travelers can bring viruses here, however, and the mosquito can bite them and spread the virus.)

While the aedes insect still hasn’t made its way to the beach communities, it’s probably only a matter of time, added Saviskas. It joins the area’s established mosquitoes, which primarily bite at dawn and dusk.

Local residents Shana and Ahmet Zappa were so concerned with the recent uptick in bites that they already reached out to the West Vector District.

“Ahmet and I were born and raised in L.A. and have never experienced anything like this….” Shana told us. “This year something has changed.”

Shana also found she was allergic after a particularly bad reaction.

  “I have been to urgent care for painful swelling — so much so that the doctor misdiagnosed me with having a staph infection…”

  In their gardens they tried several pesticide sprays on the market and applied repellent before going outdoors. They even purchased an $800 machine that “supposedly emits CO2 and attracts them from your garden to kill them…”

  After finding the Asian tiger aedes species in a backyard trap, they called the West Vector District, and after an inspector checked their surroundings, he told them to alert the neighbors as the source was not from their property.

“He made sure to explain that most people do not understand that our taxpayer dollars pay for their services and they come out absolutely free…

“I have had calls from our neighbors… saying they indeed are facing the same issues and would call Vector as well.”

She continued, “It seems no one in our community can enjoy our beautiful gardens any longer. Kids can’t go outside without heavy repellents. And even then, they get bit…

  “I also think with global warming, the threat of new mosquito populations moving in from other places is something our city needs to start thinking about and NOW. I don’t know what the answer is, but someone must.”

West Nile

Meanwhile, other non-aedes mosquito varieties are testing positive for the West Nile virus, which is everywhere in Los Angeles County as hundreds of thousands of birds are affected. The insects become infected when they feed on infected birds, Saviskas explained.

“The good news is the number of human cases for 2019 is very, very low, with only eight human infection cases. There were 46 human cases reported last year with three fatalities, down from 268 from the year before with 27 fatalities,” Saviskas said.

Only a handful of the 50 mosquito species found locally (there are 3,500 worldwide) are capable of transmitting diseases to humans, according to the West Vector District website.

With the rising concerns, the Hancock Park Homeowners Association sent out an alert last month asking neighbors to be diligent.

“Please be aware that mosquitoes only need a bottle cap of water to breed. Check your yards and make sure there is absolutely NO standing water (e.g. plant saucers, unused watering cans, upside-down Frisbees, etc.), and check to make sure there is no water pooling on the sidewalk from irrigation overspray, etc.

“Everyone needs to be vigilant in order to protect those who are especially vulnerable to West Nile (elderly and immune-suppressed folks).”

The Windsor Square Association sent an earlier email: “Our neighborhood is being hit harder than many others — possibly because our yards can hide little pockets of standing water.”

Help for backyard ponds

Mosquitofish can help with backyard ponds and fountains as they are effective in controlling mosquito larvae. The small feeding fish are provided free to residents.

Safety tips include: drain standing water; install screens; keep doors closed; when outdoors, wear pants, long sleeve shirts and apply insect repellent — DEET 5 to 10 percent, citronella or oil of lemon eucalyptus. For more information visit lawestvector.org.


Category: News

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