Shire warns of mosquito danger as wet builds

Published on Thursday, 13 January 2022 at 3:05:12 PM

With the wet season continuing to build in the West Kimberley the threat from mosquitos remains high, with large numbers of insects now bothering residents daily, especially at dawn and dusk.

The Department of Health has issued a special alert to remind local shires that mosquito issues are prevalent in the state and “residents must remain wary”.

The Shire’s Mosquito Management Plan was officially endorsed by the council at its most recent meeting. This means there is now a regimented plan of attack to combat mosquitos in the district, with aims to mitigate risk and reduce nuisance populations.

There are over 100 species of mosquito in WA and in rural areas their natural habitats include salt marsh, as well as lakes, swamps, ground pools, irrigation ditches, and tree holes.

In backyard gardens mosquitos are drawn to pot plant drip trays, septic and water tanks, roof gutters, ponds, disused containers, poorly maintained swimming pools, animal water bowls and disused car tyres.

If there's an opportunity of stagnant water left for more than five days the mosquitoes will breed, said the Shire’s Environmental Health Team leader Evie Molson.

Image: Members of the Shire’s Environmental Health Team Craig Buckle, team leader Evie Molson and Camillia Juboy.

“Currently we are operating our surveillance programme using CO2 traps,” said Molson.

“These traps give us an idea as to what species are dominant and that allows us to manage them with target specific products.”

Products used are environmentally appropriate larvacides and are approved by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority and supported by the WA Department of Health, for broad scale mosquito management.

Over 30 years of trapping and species identification within the Shire indicate dominant species in the region include the Culex annulirostris and Aedes vigilax, which are both known carriers of Ross River virus, Barmah Forest virus, Murray Valley encephalitis virus and West Nile virus Kunjin strain that can cause chronic diseases in humans.

Molson said the traps also allow the team to identify any “exotic species” that have made their way into the Shire. This is particularly important as some exotic species have carried dengue fever and malaria into the Kimberley in the past.

Image: Water left sitting on a tarp can become a breeding ground for mosquitos in as quickly as five days. 

“WA has been free of dengue fever for over 50 years now, but we need to remain vigilant,” said Molson.  

“As for malaria, Fitzroy Crossing experienced 200 deaths from malaria back in 1934, so it’s a disease to guard against.”

Molson said protecting the Shire from deadly mosquito-borne diseases is a “team effort”, and depends on vigilance from quarantine services, local government surveillance, and residents doing what they can to reduce the mosquito habitat around their houses and communities.

The best protection measures against mosquitos at home (where the majority of bites occur) are simple, and cheap. Healthy WA advises people to cover up in the garden by wearing loose, long-sleeve clothing. When outside wear insect repellent containing DEET (diethyltoluamide) or picaridin, and clean up your garden area, especially any bodies of stagnant water.

“Fighting the bite is easy and a joint community effort, the Shire is working hard but if residents allow mosquitoes to breed in their backyard we are fighting a losing battle," said Molson.

“Please report mosquito nuisance hot spots directly to the Shire so they can be included in the mitigation program.”

Image: Local school student Beau Molson examines local mosquito specimens.

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