How facility managers can handle the mosquito boom

by Sophie Berrill
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mosquito

If you live in the south-east of Australia, you might have heard news buzzing that we are in the midst of a particularly relentless mosquito season.

Wet weather, and in some cases major flooding events, are to blame for the explosion of the mosquito population. Rain creates breeding sites, while warm conditions allow mosquitoes to breed quickly.

Mosquitoes are not only a nuisance for facility managers and their tenants, but also potential vectors of infectious diseases like Ross River virus, Japanese encephalitis and Barmah Forest virus.

Professor Ary Hoffmann is an entomologist from the University of Melbourne, dealing with pests, organisms and disease vectors in a range of situations. He says the mosquito boom is likely to continue until we see drier weather. And that probably won’t happen any time soon, as present models from the Bureau of Meteorology indicate La Niña may not start to ease until early 2023.

So, what are some measures FMs can take to protect facilities this mosquito summer? Here are Prof Hoffmann’s tips.

Mosquito prevention

Prevention is key to avoiding more drastic pest control down the line.

The first obvious step is to properly seal off buildings to make sure mosquitoes can’t get in in the first place. If doors and windows are open without being properly screened, mozzies will make their way inside.

Stairwells and plants are often a “good spot to find mosquitoes”, says Prof Hoffmann.

“They’ll accumulate in moist, humid areas.” 

Stagnant water

Fierce rainstorms like those we have had can leave behind a lot of problematic stagnant water. There’s also the potential for water to seep into areas where it might not otherwise, known in the mosquito world as ‘cryptic breeding sites’.

“Structures like buildings can have defects where water accumulates. Anywhere where water accumulates, you’re going to get the potential for mosquito breeding,” says Prof Hoffmann. 

Mosquitoes will breed anywhere they can get into, whether that stagnant water is outside or inside of a building. Getting rid of stagnant water stops breeding at the source and is a preventative measure with a low environmental impact.

One place where mosquitoes won’t breed is flowing water. Routine maintenance of gutters, water tanks and other water collections is “really, really important” to keep the water moving.

Rubbish 

Getting rid of rubbish is critically important to preventing mosquito infestations. 

“If you’ve got a building that’s surrounded by rubbish, you can almost guarantee that that’s going to attract mosquitoes in large numbers. A cleanup has a huge impact on keeping mosquitoes at bay,” says Prof Hoffmann.

In humid countries like Singapore, you can get fined for having a lot of rubbish on your premises. The south-east has recently started to feel more tropical, and is likely to have more frequent and extreme weather events in future, but we don’t have the same levels of awareness and intervention in place.

“Our problem is our infrastructure is quite different because it’s not geared towards these sort of events. We tend to be a bit slack about removing rubbish,” says Prof Hoffmann. 

When to call pest control

Prof Hoffmann does not recommend spraying pesticides at the first sign of mosquitoes.

“Don’t panic and start nuking everything.”

There is a whole biodiversity of mosquitoes, which are still a part of the natural environment.  

“We have 300 species of mosquitoes in Australia, only a few of those transmit human diseases, some of them don’t even bite you… Most of the mosquitoes you encounter are not going to carry the disease, it’s only the odd one.”

FMs should call up pest control if they encounter an extraordinary number of mosquitoes on site, if there is a case of a mosquito-borne disease, or if there is just a lot of nuisance biting going on. If used, pesticide should be applied in a localised way, ideally using granular formulated soft chemicals that don’t harm anyone except for the mozzies.

“I think it’s important not to overreact. And don’t forget there are also councils that are trying to control mosquitoes and water bodies and other things already.”

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