Mosquitoes have become more then just a pesky problem in New Jersey. So far this year there has been one confirmed case of the West Nile virus. Officials are trying to prevent the spread of infection with various measures.
Every weekday inspectors from the Middlesex County Mosquito Commission survey bodies of water throughout the region for mosquito breeding.
“There’s a lot of properties in the county and throughout the state where you wouldn’t think that it’s a mosquito habitat, but it’s just a small little depression that will collect water,” said Bill Evegan, supervisor for the Middlesex County Mosquito Division.
Middlesex County’s entomologist Deepak Matadha says mosquitoes aren’t more abundant in specific counties. They’re attracted to standing water regardless of the area.
“Mosquitoes need standing water to breed,” Matadha said. “Once they’re filled with eggs they look for standing water. That’s when they go and lay eggs. It takes roughly about a week to 10 days for them to go from egg to adults.”
Statewide mosquito inspectors work to control the population before the insect reaches adulthood because that’s when they bite. Middlesex County has a team both in the air and on the ground monitoring 14,000 known mosquito habitats in the county. They first sample water and look for mosquito larvae. Next, inspectors disperse a granular material covered with bacteria — think of it as mosquito food poisoning.
“The bacteria is extremely specific for mosquito larvae and what will happen is that the mosquito larvae will feed on this bacteria and then the bacteria will rupture their gut actually,” Evegan said.
Inspectors say backyards are one of the biggest mosquito habitats because most residents don’t realize they’ve created a perfect breeding spot for the insects. Several hundred to even 1,000 mosquitoes could live in a bucket.
Some of the mosquitoes found in backyards carry the West Nile virus. This time last year nearly 115 mosquito pools tested positive for the virus. So far this year that number has more then doubled with nearly 300 mosquito pools testing positive for West Nile virus and one human case has been confirmed.
“We are five weeks, four to five weeks ahead in the season,” Matadha said. “This is about the time when we are just starting with the West Nile virus season but we are already in the middle of the West Nile virus season.”
Experts say a mild winter and dry spring have led to an early emergence of mosquitoes and the confirmation of the first West Nile virus human case of the season serves as a reminder that residents need to be vigilant and aware of the threat in their own backyard.
Lauren Wanko reports from Edison.