By Andrew Schmertz
These tires may be an eyesore to you and me, but to a mosquito they are luxury housing.
Since tires, like pools and garbage cans, easily collect water, they are the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes — and many of them may carry dangerous viruses.
David Glass, the deputy commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection, says we all play a role in reducing the risk of contracting one.
“The biggest thing is public education. That’s why we’re here today. Combating Zika and mosquitoes overall is something the public can be part of. We’ve been preaching that standing water plus seven days equals mosquitoes,” he said.
Partially in response to the Zika virus spreading in the U.S., the state has contributed an additional $500,000 to the counties this summer to step up spraying and other measures.
Zika can lead to devastating birth defects in newborns.
While the mosquito that can carry Zika has been found in New Jersey, county health officials say the risk here is still largely from mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus. So far, there has been one confirmed West Nile case in the state.
These mosquitoes are donating their bodies to science. The county traps them, transports them to the lab, then flash freezes them. Then the mosquitoes can be tested to see if they’re carrying any viruses.
“New Jersey has close if not over 60 species. In Hunterdon County we deal with about 30 species and we probably collect over the season between 20 to 30 species,” said Gary Donato, entomologist at the Hunterdon County Health Department.
The counties trap mosquitoes year round. Most of the work is done on public property, but investigators may come to private homes if a mosquito problem is suspected.
“This particular set came out of the river behind us a few hundred acres. There was a clean communities group that came in and was cleaning up the river habitat and they removed the tires from the river and placed them on the banks. And they’re in the process now of taking those tires from the banks and getting them out of the woods and to a recycling facility,” said Scott Crans, administrator at the NJDEP Office of Mosquito Control Coordination.
It is illegal to dump tires and the state Department of Environmental Protection wants you to know there are cameras set up in frequent dumping places like state parks. More than 100 arrests have recently been made.
So while bug spray may protect you, health and environmental officials say we can all protect everyone by taking simple steps to reduce the mosquito population.