The warm summer weather heralds the return of two of Australia’s most unwelcome pests, the mosquito and biting midge.
Problems with mosquitoes and biting midges are particularly prevalent in coastal areas, which is also where a significant proportion of Australian holiday accommodation is located.
Many local councils work to prevent infestations by undertaking mosquito control programs during the warmer months from September to April and particularly after rainfall. Breeding pools of water are treated with larvicides which either kill the insect larvae or prevent them from developing into adults. The mosquito population is then monitored with the aim of keeping mosquito numbers to levels acceptable to the general public.
Those levels can however be too high for paying guests looking for an idyllic retreat and there is growing pressure on accommodation providers to take action to control the problem.
According to the Vice-President of the Mosquito Control Association of Australia (MCAA) and Principal Entomologist with Amalgamated Pest Control, Gary Cochrane major issues with mosquitoes and biting midges generally occur when properties are within 1.6km of breeding areas including coastal areas and freshwater wetlands.
“Australia is host to over 260 species of ‘mossies’ which start their lifecycle as aquatic larvae until the adults emerge as little as one week later in optimum conditions,” Gary said.
“Breeding in salt, brackish or fresh water – virtually anywhere where water pools exist for more than a few days - the insect is able to breed quickly to nuisance levels whenever climatic conditions are suitable.
“Biting midges, or sandflies as they are commonly known, are small robust insects renowned for their nuisance biting associated with habitats such as coastal lagoons, estuaries, mangrove swamps and tidal flats.
“A bite from either one of these insects can quickly ruin a holiday moment with many people suffering strong physical reactions including painful welts. In the case of the mosquito it is not only annoying to guests it is also a potential transmitter of disease.”
In the effort to create the optimum environment for guests and of course protect them from harm, property managers do have a number of options when waging war against these nuisance insects.
The first is to take a common sense approach and try to physically eliminate breeding habitats on your property. This can be done by
• Not allowing water to accumulate in any kind of container, including bases of planters, for more than two days
• Reducing habitat by cleaning debris from rain gutters and remove any standing water under or around structures or on flat roofs
• Check around air conditioner units for leaks or puddles and repair them immediately
• Introduce native fish into ornamental ponds or waterways
• Remove, drain or fill tree holes and stumps with mortar
• Eliminate any seepage from the plumbing system
• Irrigate lawns and gardens carefully to prevent water from standing for several days
• Carefully monitor pools chlorination levels
Unfortunately these steps are not enough to eradicate a serious mosquito and biting midge problem.
Facilities can undertake their own treatment programs with research conducted over the past years establishing that residual harborage treatments are effective with results lasting several weeks. These types of treatments aren’t new and have been utilised for decades.
“The advancement of specific non-aplha cyano synthetic pyrethroids, in particular Bifenthrin, means residual harborage treatments are now applied effectively to surfaces frequented by mosquitoes.”
The treatments target adult stages of the biting insects. During the heat of the day most mosquitoes land in a cool place and wait for the evenings. The treatment works by killing the mosquito after it comes into contract with treated areas. The situation is ideally suited to established garden areas with significant plant foliage and other exterior structures which provide resting spaces for the adult mosquitoes.
According to Gary, these specialised mosquito residual harborage treaments do not affect beneficial insects.
“The treatment itself is safe for insects you do want in your garden like bees and butterflies however plants flowering at the time are not treated with this application method in order to provide these insects additional protection,” Gary said.
“Waterways, such as ponds, creeks or rivers, are also given a reasonably wide buffer zone in order to ensure protection from wind drifts, therefore providing no chemical contamination of these sensitive areas.
“The mosquito and biting midge are undoubtedly two of the most problematic insects however there are safe, affordable and accessible methods for their control.”