Understanding The Zika Threat in Our Own “Backyard”

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By Dannis Warf, ACE, Entomologist, Royal Pest


It’s summer…and you’re in your yard trying to enjoy the beautiful days and longer nights in your yard and you get ambushed by mosquitoes.  They buzz in your ears. They fly in your face. And they will leave you bumpy and itchy after they snack on your blood.

But there are more to mosquitoes than just being dive-bombing annoyances. According to the World Health Organization, mosquitoes are the world’s most deadly animal, killing around 725,000 people each year. Mosquitoes are so dangerous around the world because they carry devastating diseases like malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, and encephalitis.


Our own “backyard”– the Mid-Atlantic Region. 

Mosquito season here usually starts in April when the temperature reaches 50° F. Mosquitoes thrive in hot weather so as the temperature rises, the mosquito volume rises, too, reaching its peak during the hot summer months.

The Zika Threat : The Reality

The Zika virus is a mosquito-borne virus that currently has no specific medical treatment or vaccine. It is primarily spread through the bite of infected mosquitoes commonly called the Yellow Fever mosquito. It’s important to know that this species is found predominantly in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. That’s why Zika is having an impact on the summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes.) People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital. However, the virus infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, as well as
other severe fetal brain defects.

Zika is a serious threat and needs to be addressed globally. But how does this affect us?  As of June 15, 2016, the Center of Disease Control (CDC) reported there have been NO locally acquired mosquito-borne cases reported in the United States.

Mosquitoes in Our Backyard

The Asian tiger and Culex mosquitoes are prevalent in our area. If infected with Zika, which is unlikely, the Asian Tiger mosquito can transmit the virus.  Both CAN transmit West Nile virus, but again, only if they are infected. Not all mosquitoes carry
a virus.
Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds. In our region the incidence of West Nile Virus is extremely low at >0.2 cases per 100,000 people.

You never know what mosquitoes are carrying a virus. With a little maintenance around your home, and some protection for you and your family, you can enjoy the beauty and soft sounds of a summer night in your backyard. Protect your yard and your family by following these tips: 

Apply insect repellent containing at least 20% DEET. (Always read labels before applying.)

When possible, wear long-sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors. Mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing, so spraying clothes with repellent containing permethrin or DEET will give extra protection.

FOR MOST MOSQUITOES: The hours from dusk to dawn are peak mosquito biting times

PLEASE NOTE: The Yellow Fever and Asian Tiger mosquitoes that may transmit the ZIKA virus are active during the day! 

Drain standing water from around your home. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water.

Clean your gutters of leaves and debris that hold moisture. They are a mosquito breeding ground.

Install or repair screens on both windows and doors to keep mosquitoes outside.

Report dead birds to local authorities. Dead birds may be a sign that they were infected with West Nile virus.


Do you have a PEST QUESTION E-mail Dannis at [email protected]