Bill signals new interest in mosquitoes

Neglected pools can become breeding sites for thousands of mosquitoes. Photo by M. Merchant

Neglected pools can become breeding sites for thousands of mosquitoes. Photo by M. Merchant

After last summer’s West Nile virus epidemic in north Texas there is a heightened awareness of mosquitoes and mosquito issues around the state.  Last week the Texas Senate gave thumbs up (28-3 vote) on a measure (SB 186) introduced by Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas) that would give municipal health officials authority to enter empty or abandoned properties to treat mosquito breeding sites that pose a public health nuisance.

The idea behind this bill is that abandoned homes, most notably those with untended,  “green” swimming pools, can be a source of mosquito breeding that can affect homes within at least a mile radius.  Such mosquitoes can be both a nuisance and a health hazard. It can be difficult for health authorities to gain access to such properties without a search warrant.  This bill would allow a “public official, agent or employee charged with the enforcement of… laws” to enter the premises at a reasonable time to inspect or treat the nuisance stagnant water.

Any attention given to the problem of mosquitoes and mosquito-borne diseases is a positive thing, but the responsibility of identifying and eliminating mosquito breeding sites extends beyond state or local government to all of us.  As the temperatures rise this spring, mosquitoes will become active again very soon.  It’s time to be sure that your back yard is not one of those nuisance sources.

Some of the more commonly overlooked mosquito breeding sites:

  • Water- and leaf-filled bird baths
  • Gutters that fail to drain properly
  • Buckets, plant pots and wheelbarrows without drain holes
  • Landscape and gutter drain lines that catch and hold water (should have a pop-up drain emitter)
  • Water catch basins/septic tanks
  • Uncapped steel fence posts
  • Plastic or canvas covers on boats or trailers that catch water
  • Any container that catches and holds water more than a week
  • Unscreened rain cisterns and rain barrels

A few years ago, Dallas County did an evaluation on the properties of citizens who complained about mosquitoes in their backyards.  They found that 25% of these citizens had mosquito breeding sites in their own yards.  This is a good time for all of us to check your own backyards to make sure we’re not contributing to the problem of biting mosquitoes.

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