Public Education Programs for Mosquito Control in the United States 1982 to the Present

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by Broox Boze Ph.D., VDCI Director of Technical Services

Published in Wing Beats, Florida Mosquito Control Association

In 1979 the American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA) adopted a policy statement indicating that “methods for mosquito control should be chosen after careful consideration of the efficacy, ecological effects, and costs versus benefits of the various options, including public education, legal action, natural and biological control, elimination of breeding sources, and insecticide application.” Within a few years, a membership survey was conducted to analyze public education programs implemented by our members and found that 60% of respondents rated public education as “more important” than or “equally important” as chemical, biological, or physical control.”  However, survey respondents reported that only 1.7% of their budget was allocated for public education and an average of 30% was allocated for chemical, biological, and physical control (Beams, 1985).

AMCA’s general membership survey, conducted in 2020, indicated that a “lack of public understanding or support of mosquito control” was identified as the number one element having an impact on our profession in the next three years. “Increasing and improving public outreach” was also listed as our membership’s number one priority (Association Laboratories, 2020).

AMCA survey participantsTo examine the state of current public education programs within mosquito control agencies across the United States, we modified Beams 1985 survey and distributed it to 178 agencies across 38 states. Participants were selected for inclusion based on criteria established in the original design (Beams, 1985): inclusion of all geographic regions, and listing in the American Mosquito Control’s Directory of Mosquito Control Agencies (Challet and Keller, 1981). A total of 133 agencies completed the survey (74.7% response rate) with a relatively equal distribution across regions (Figure 1) and agency size across time (Figure 2).

AMCA survey participants

The survey results support an increased focus on public education within mosquito control and note a 10% increase in the number of agencies ranking public education as “more important” or “equally important” than chemical, biological or physical control (Figure 3) in addition to documenting a 300% increase in budget allocation from 1.7% to 5.19% of total operating expenses.

Despite the increased emphasis on public education as a leading component of Integrated Mosquito Management (IMM) there was little to no change in the number of agencies that make mosquito/vector control information (brochures, leaflets, pamphlets) available to the public (86% in 1982, 85% in 2022), the number of agencies making educational presentations available to the community (85% in 1982, 88% in 2022), or the use of press releases to local new agencies (83% in 1982, 86.5% in 2022).  There was also a decrease in agencies offering facility tours to the public (71% in 1982, 58% in 2022) and regular coverage of agency activities on local news sources (45% in 1982, 38% in 2022).  There has been no change in the number of districts that rank their public education programs as either excellent or good (34% in 1982, 34.5% in 2022) when presented with the following options: excellent, good, fair, poor, variable, and no opinion.

staff responsibility mosquito control public educationOne of the biggest changes identified with public education programs is the organizational level at which responsibilities principally fall (Figure 4). Forty-seven percent of agencies report that their manager/director is primarily responsible for educational activities within their jurisdiction, down from 53% in 1982.  Despite the small change in responsibility for managers/directors, the number of agencies relying on biologists/entomologists for educational outreach decreased from 34% in 1982 to only 9% in 2022. The number of agencies with a specialist focused primarily on education increased from only 8% in 1982 to 34% in 2022, which suggests an increased understanding of the unique skills needed for educational outreach and public relations.

 The agencies surveyed in this study are public, tax-supported organizations with limited funds and the responsibility for protecting public health through management of mosquitoes in a fiscally responsible way. As a data-driven industry, the use of chemical pesticides to control mosquitoes gives rapid, noticeable, and quantifiable results that can be documented with standardized surveillance strategies.  As both the staff and budget allocated toward public education activities continues to increase, we should consider assessment strategies to document their efficacy and usefulness within the IMM framework.  Current strategies for gauging the success of public education activities include measuring the number of people reached via social media (clicks/likes/shares) and the number of outreach events held. However, surveillance data (trap counts/landing rates/service requests), public acceptance, behavioral change (container/house/breteau index), and learning/knowledge evaluations should also be a part of gauging success like the other components of IMM.  Unfortunately, the majority of mosquito control agencies are not using these measurable tools to document the success of their efforts (Figure 5) and only a small fraction of our community is utilizing surveillance-based data or behavioral change to document their public outreach impacts on protecting public health.  
 
agencies using public education assessment tools

As AMCA works to build a national campaign and reduce the lack of understanding regarding mosquito control, we must remember that Integrated Mosquito Management involves careful consideration of the efficacy, ecological effects, and costs versus benefits of the various options, including public education, legal action, natural and biological control, elimination of breeding sources, and insecticide application. While most respondents (98.2%) focus on personal protective measures (including the use of repellent, avoiding certain times of day, and dressing appropriately), the focus on the other pieces of IMM which are essential to scientifically sound operations is markedly lower. Only 40.6% of agencies put any effort into highlighting surveillance data, 66.1% focus on disease activity and 56.3% focus on larval control suggesting that our industry has room for improvement when it comes to communicating with the public. Wide area applications for controlling adult mosquitoes continue to be scrutinized and it is not surprising to see that only 30.8% of agencies focus on the science behind these intervention strategies.  Less than 25% of respondents spend any time discussing environmental impact, insecticide resistance, biocontrol, or new technologies (Figure 6) which help to ensure the safe and effective use of our limited tools.

components of IMM agency focus

Both CDC and EPA acknowledge chemical control as a component of IMM and necessary tool for reducing the risk of transmission when pathogens are found in adult mosquitoes (Connelly et al., 2020). In areas where sheer number of mosquitoes create quality of life issues, adult mosquito control is not only required, but desired by the public. However, AMCA members often shy away from discussing this important component of IMM due to concerns of backlash from non-governmental organizations and/or anti-pesticide advocacy groups. The best way to counter these concerns is to demonstrate the solid science behind the use of these technologies. Failure to do so allows special interest groups to tell, and frame, the story in a way that may not acknowledge the science behind our efforts and causes a disservice to public health.

Mosquito Control public outreach should discuss ALL of the components of IMM, and the AMCA Public Relations Committee looks forward to developing messages to make this happen.

Contact Us to Learn More About Mosquito Management Public Education

VDCI_Logo_squareSince 1992, Vector Disease Control International (VDCI) has taken pride in providing municipalities, mosquito abatement districts, industrial sites, planned communities, homeowners associations, and golf courses with the tools they need to run effective mosquito control programs. We are determined to protect the public health of the communities in which we operate. Our mosquito control professionals have over 100 years of combined experience in the field of public health, specifically vector disease control. We strive to provide the most effective and scientifically sound mosquito surveillance and control programs possible based on an Integrated Mosquito Management approach recommended by the American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). VDCI is the only company in the country that can manage all aspects of an integrated mosquito management program, from surveillance to disease testing to aerial application in emergency situations.

The 4Ds: How Your Community Can Help Prevent Mosquito Breeding and Bites

The 4Ds: How Your Community Can Help Prevent Mosquito Breeding and Bites

It’s common to spend time in nature to relax and reset, but silent threats like mosquitoes can make this difficult and even dangerous. One of the reasons mosquitoes so often plague our outdoor activities is because they are highly efficient at reproducing. Anywhere water collects—from a stagnant pond to a tiny puddle in the sidewalk—can become an active breeding ground for mosquitoes. Therefore, community members play a vital role in the elimination of standing water, as well as the protection of themselves and their families from vector-borne pathogens

The best way to protect yourself when spending time outdoors is remembering the 4Ds:

1. DEFEND

Consistently wear and reapply an EPA-approved repellent when outdoors

  • The safest and most effective repellents should contain 10-30% DEET (N,N Diethyl-meta-toluamide). 
  • Always follow manufacturer guidelines found on the label to ensure safe and optimal product use.
  • Review the EPA’s list of registered insect repellents – www.epa.gov/insect-repellents/find-repellent-right-you   
  • Keep dogs and cats safe, too, with preventative heartworm medication.

2. DRESS

Wear closed-toe shoes, light colors, and long sleeves and pants to keep your skin protected. 

  • Mosquitoes are more attracted to darker clothing. 
  • Comfortable, loose-fitting clothes are more effective at preventing mosquito bites.
  • Bare skin on your hands, ankles, face, neck, or other areas should be protected with mosquito repellent.

3. DRAIN

Mosquitoes require standing water to reproduce. 

  • Empty and prevent future water collection in outdoor tools and objects like tires, tarps, buckets, birdbaths, basketball goals, wheelbarrows, and lawn care equipment.
  • Ensure water can drain properly from gutters, flower pots, watering cans, rain barrels, low-lying ditches, and stormwater pipes and structures.

4. DUSK & DAWN

Limit spending time outdoors when mosquitoes are most active. 

  • Mosquitoes can become dehydrated in direct sunlight. 
  • During the day, mosquitoes typically linger in cool, shaded places like thick weeds, ivy, bushes, and wood piles.

Self-protection goes hand-in-hand with public education. Integrated Mosquito Management (IMM) programs are most effective when efforts are reinforced by the surrounding community. When state, regional, and municipal entities partner with a professional management company, they get access to industry experts who regularly present and work with health departments, churches, schools, libraries, senior homes, local clubs, and other groups to ensure they receive accurate information about the mosquito species, diseases, and tools used in the area. Educational resources can be disseminated through a variety of channels to inform citizens about up-to-date news, safety warnings, and mosquito prevention reminders. 

It’s important to remember that mosquitoes are not hindered by geographical boundaries. In fact, some species can travel many miles for a blood meal. When knowledgeable citizens work together, they can have a significant impact that benefits the entire community and help maximize the results of their local integrated mosquito management program.

Contact Our Experts​

Fill out the form below or call our experts at 866.977.6964 so that they can help you develop a custom IMM program to meet your community’s needs.

VDCI_Logo_squareSince 1992, Vector Disease Control International (VDCI) has taken pride in providing municipalities, mosquito abatement districts, industrial sites, planned communities, homeowners associations, and golf courses with the tools they need to run effective mosquito control programs. We are determined to protect the public health of the communities in which we operate. Our mosquito control professionals have over 100 years of combined experience in the field of public health, specifically vector disease control. We strive to provide the most effective and scientifically sound mosquito surveillance and control programs possible based on an Integrated Mosquito Management approach recommended by the American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). VDCI is the only company in the country that can manage all aspects of an integrated mosquito management program, from surveillance to disease testing to aerial application in emergency situations.

Behind the Scenes Look: Utilizing Technology for Successful Surveillance & Disease Testing

VDCI lab testing vial mosquito control education

Behind the Scenes Look: Utilizing Technology for Successful Surveillance & Disease Testing

Responsible mosquito management involves targeting mosquitoes at all stages of their lifecycle. A holistic, integrated approach is the most effective strategy to halt population growth and prevent the spread of deadly diseases while reducing environmental footprint.

surveillance and disease testing

Surveillance is the cornerstone of an integrated mosquito management (IMM) program. This begins with assessing breeding sites and eliminating mosquitoes at the larval stage. By analyzing population dynamics and species distribution, adult mosquitoes can be safely and effectively controlled. Proactive surveillance and data collection also allow scientists to optimize the use of insecticides and limit spraying to specific areas at precise times. These techniques reduce the chance of insecticide resistance, which can create additional challenges and expenses for stakeholders.

mosquito lab testing collecting dataHighly targeted, carefully formulated insecticides are used by experts to safely control mosquitoes and mitigate the risk of vector-borne disease transmission. Though insecticides are an impactful tool in mosquito management, it’s possible for mosquitoes to become resistant to them. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) if mortality drops to a rate of less than 90%, the mosquito population is considered insecticide resistant.

Insecticide resistance typically occurs during prolonged exposure to insecticides used during the management process. Continued use in moderately susceptible populations can result in the selection of resistant individuals and loss of insecticide sensitivity in certain areas—something that is particularly dangerous during large mosquito outbreaks following rainstorms, hurricanes, and other serious weather events. Insecticide resistance not only contributes to wasted time and resources but it also endangers communities through increased disease transmission.

mosquito lab testingThe best way to prevent insecticide resistance is ongoing monitoring. IMM programs incorporate strategic monitoring efforts throughout the management season to gather information about species bionomics, active periods, host preferences, and the presence of disease. This knowledge about local mosquito populations is used to determine the severity of a nuisance outbreak and inform control efforts. 

Scientists have multiple ways to collect information. Each method is selected based on the unique challenges a community is facing.

mosquito trapsCDC Light Traps

These light traps, which were developed by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, are considered the industry standard for mosquito surveillance and collection. Like the New Jersey light trap, it attracts many different species, but it is portable. A 6V battery powers a motorized fan that circulates carbon dioxide (CO2) as an attractant. Once they enter the trap, mosquitoes are sucked into a collection device. CDC traps are most effective when deployed at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.

mosquito trapsBG-Sentinel Trap

This trap is designed to capture Aedes albopictus (Asian Tiger mosquito) and Aedes aegypti (Yellow Fever mosquito), each of which are known to carry diseases, including Dengue, Chikungunya, Zika virus, and Yellow Fever. Both species thrive in urban environments where they can breed in natural and artificial containers such as gutters, bird baths, watering cans, and outdoor equipment. The BG-Sentinel trap, which is made of a tarp-like material, utilizes an attractant to lure mosquitoes into a funnel. The funnel is outfitted with an electric fan that pulls them into a net where they will remain until collection.

mosquito trapsGravid Trap

Gravid traps are designed to catch Culex mosquitoes, such as Culex tarsalis or Culex pipiens. These species are capable of spreading West Nile virus, St. Louis Encephalitis, and both Western and Eastern Equine Encephalitis. Each trap is filled with stagnant water containing organic matter like grass or hay to mimic natural breeding grounds. As Culex mosquitoes approach, they are sucked by an electric fan into the trap for future collection.

mosquito trapsNew Jersey Light Trap

The New Jersey light trap is effective at capturing a wide spectrum of mosquito species. It is typically used as a permanent device that’s mounted and powered by an outlet in target areas. The New Jersey light trap is a beneficial tool to support IMM programs—it is capable of collecting large quantities of local mosquitoes for scientific analysis and data collection. 

PCR Tests 

Clinical tests are commonly used in the industry to identify diseases. PCR tests, for example, allow laboratory technicians to detect different bacteria or viruses that have been transmitted by mosquitoes. Though PCR tests are also used to detect Covid-19, it’s important to note that mosquitoes do not spread the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

RAMP® WNv Tests

RAMP tests are also widely used in the industry. This highly-sensitive test is designed to detect West Nile virus in mosquitoes. A RAMP test can be conducted quickly and efficiently in-house, making it particularly useful following hurricanes and weather events.

lab testing

CDC Bottle Bioassay

One of the most important tools when monitoring for insecticide resistance is the CDC Bottle Bioassay. As part of the testing process, bottles are coated with a diluted pesticide solution and then paired with a control group. Female adult mosquitoes are deposited into each bottle, where they are exposed to stressful conditions. Mortality data is then collected and analyzed by scientists for evidence of insecticide resistance. 

Larval Cup Bioassay

Larvicides are central to proactive mosquito management programs, and resistance is less common; however, it can still occur. Larval control agents work through either ingestion or contact with the target host, depending on the product used. Like the bottle bioassay process, cups are coated with bacterial larvicides like Bacillus thuringiensis israliensis (Bti), Bacillus sphaericus (Bs), or Spinosad and examined for mortality data. 

insecticide resistance - bottle assay

Modern GPS/GIS technologies have made it possible to gather large amounts of data for site mapping, disease tracking, and analysis. This information can be compared over time to identify trends or patterns that help advise the direction of management programs and ensure ongoing compliance with regulatory standards. 

Now, GPS technologies are being integrated into advanced aerial equipment. VDCI’s state of the art drones give technicians a birds-eye-view of target sites for more streamlined site surveillance and mapping, as well as more precise pesticide applications. Likewise, advanced drones allow experts to observe and treat areas that are dangerous, like swamps and wetlands, or more private, like HOAs and other large communities.

drone surveillance

Scientists have many advanced tools at their disposal for trapping, species identification, and disease testing, but the most valuable approach is preventative management. Proactive surveillance, monitoring, communication, and stakeholder education can help experts identify and quickly mitigate disease risks before a community is impacted. VDCI has the experience, necessary equipment, industry-leading technologies, and capabilities to handle all of your mosquito surveillance and disease monitoring needs.

Contact Our Experts​

Contact, or call, our experts at 866.977.6964 so that they can help you develop a custom IMM program to meet your community’s needs.

VDCI_Logo_squareSince 1992, Vector Disease Control International (VDCI) has taken pride in providing municipalities, mosquito abatement districts, industrial sites, planned communities, homeowners associations, and golf courses with the tools they need to run effective mosquito control programs. We are determined to protect the public health of the communities in which we operate. Our mosquito control professionals have over 100 years of combined experience in the field of public health, specifically vector disease control. We strive to provide the most effective and scientifically sound mosquito surveillance and control programs possible based on an Integrated Mosquito Management approach recommended by the American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). VDCI is the only company in the country that can manage all aspects of an integrated mosquito management program, from surveillance to disease testing to aerial application in emergency situations.

Industry Partnerships: Opportunities to Learn and Grow

Written By The VDCI Team

business-industry-partnerships-579x144

The 84th Annual Meeting of the American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA) took place in Kansas City, MO. The Association’s president, Wayne Gale, brought attention to the meeting’s ability to bring together the industry to share experiences, discoveries, and challenges. A portion of AMCA’s mission highlights the goal to, “… provide leadership, information and education leading to the enhancement of health and quality of life through the suppression of mosquitoes.…”

VDCI is incredibly proud of the way our team continues to reinforce AMCA’s mission, with their dedication to expanding their knowledge of mosquito management by partnering with experts across the industry. It brings us joy to share a few examples, of collaboration and supporting the future of mosquito control, that were discussed or were on display during the 2018 Annual Meeting.
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VDCI Team on Stage: 2017 AMCA Annual Meeting

Written By Broox Boze, Ph.D.

 

The annual American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA) meeting kicks off the unofficial start to mosquito season.

malcom-williams-amca-industry-award-2017_san-diego-CA-jayd.jpgAMCA hosted its 83rd Annual Meeting in San Diego earlier last month, and attendees were excited to learn about cutting-edge technology, the challenges associated with Zika virus, and to simply catch up with colleagues and partners from around the country. The VDCI team contributed to the meeting by presenting on key industry topics, hosting a young professional entering the world of mosquito management, and had the additional honor of seeing a team member recognized for 40 years of industry contributions!

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VDCI’s Jim Stark Addresses Zika Virus Concerns on “Let’s Talk, Jonesboro!”

Written By The VDCI Team
LetsTalkJonesboroAR.jpg
Zika virus has been a highlight in the media over the last few months. With the public concerned, many communities are paying greater attention to how they protect their residents from mosquito-borne diseases this summer.

The city of Jonesboro, Arkansas is already preparing for the 2016 mosquito season. The city’s sponsored public affairs program “Let’s Talk, Jonesboro!” featured Jim Stark, a member of the Vector Disease Control International (VDCI) team, to provide details.

VDCI Proud Supporter of AMCA’s Young Professionals Shadowing Program

Written By Daniel Markowski, Ph. D.
AMCA2016_YP_KennenHutchison_DanMarkowski.jpg

The American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA) started the Young Professionals (YP) Program to increase the participation of students as well as professionals new to the mosquito industry (~5 years or less). The YP group provides these AMCA members with opportunities to build relationships with each other as well as network with experienced professionals. The main outlet for this engagement is the annual AMCA meeting. 2016 marked the 3rd year of YP activities, which included an informal dinner, a fieldtrip, and the highlight of the week – the YP symposium! The roundtable format encourages YPs to speak with experts in different mosquito-related fields to gain unique perspectives and new skills.

While the annual meeting is a great opportunity, it can be difficult for YPs to attend for various reasons – with budget related obstacles topping the list. To help bring a greater number of YPs to the annual meeting, a Shadowing Program was implemented in 2016. The program asked industry partners to support AMCA YPs with travel stipends, allowing for greater attendance, and VDCI was eager to partner with the program.