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Mosquito Control FAQ:



  • What exactly do you do? Good question…mosquito control means different things to different people, and many misconceptions exist. Our control efforts are based on surveillance. We perform Integrated Mosquito Management, using targeted applications of very specific pesticides only after pre-determined thresholds of mosquitoes have been exceeded. Other areas of control are performed without the applications of pesticides at all. For information on the different aspects of mosquito control, please check our "Services" page.


  • Do you only work in the summer? Ah, a common misconception….mosquito control is performed year-round. Mosquito larvae will usually hatch in late February, and by mid-March we are investigating wetland areas we have catalogued. This is called larviciding. This service will continue through the spring & summer into the fall, depending on weather and current mosquito surveillance.


  • What do you do in the winter? Believe it or not, mosquito control is performed during the winter months also. By cleaning ditches and streams, allowing the water to flow, we can discourage and eliminate mosquito breeding in areas, without the use of pesticides, and for extended periods of time.


  • How much "spraying" will you do in my town? This part of our service has the most misconceptions attached to it. Mosquito spraying, called adulticiding, is performed in all CMMCP member towns by request-only. Area residents will call the CMMCP office and register a complaint about unbearable mosquito numbers. A Field Technician will be dispatched to investigate this complaint. If the pre-determined threshold of adult mosquitoes* is reached, a very specific, targeted application will result, but only in that area. Many factors influence this program - weather, current surveillance, topography, location, etc. CMMCP does not perform routine, area-wide spraying for adult mosquitoes. Exclusions for spraying can be made through the exclusion process; please check our Pesticide Exclusion Information page for more information. Requests for service can be made from this link: CMMCP Online Service Request Form. Our guidelines for adulticiding can be found here. These service are also offered by phone at 508.393.3055, or through you local Board of Health. (*Samples collected during this type of surveillance are often brought back to the CMMCP lab to be identified to species - this allows us to tailor the larvicide program to reduce future dependence on adult control).


  • Is the spraying dangerous to me and my family? Another common question…the product used for mosquito spraying has a very low toxicity to mammals, as well as dogs, cats, birds and other organisms. The acute toxicity is very low compared to common substances that people are routinely exposed to, such as caffeine and nicotine, and even over-the-counter medications (for more information on acute toxicity, please check the .pdf file here). Chronic toxicity should not be a concern due to the fact that this program is very targeted and limited - exposure cannot occur repeatedly due to our spraying policies. If for any reason you desire to have your property excluded, please contact our office at 508.393.3055 (see additional information on the exclusion process above). For information on the products used by CMMCP, please click here. All products used by CMMCP are registered for use by the Comm. of Mass. and the EPA. Our mosquito control techniques are endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Please click this link for a fact sheet from the Mass. Dept. of Public Health on mosquito spraying.


  • How do mosquitoes grow? Mosquitoes have a very interesting and unique biology. They go through 3 stages before maturity - egg, larvae and pupae. Each species has a different set of conditions required to complete this process. Some species lay eggs on damp soil, where they can remain for years before hatching. Another species needs emergent vegetation (such as the common cattail) to complete this process. Other species need saltwater to develop. One basic fact that is constant for all species - stagnant water is required for the maturation cycle. By removing, covering or draining containers, you can disrupt this process and reduce or eliminate mosquito annoyance and the potential for disease transmission from certain species in your own area. Wetlands and other mosquito habitats may need a professional mosquito control technician - please alert the CMMCP office if you know of a potential mosquito habitat. For more information on mosquito biology, please check our "Biology" page.


  • Why are there mosquitoes? Another common question, and one that is more difficult to answer. While some species of insects and animals will eat mosquitoes in their different stages, no one species is totally dependent on mosquitoes to survive. All predators of mosquitoes are indiscriminate - they will choose other insects that are accessible, and usually prefer larger prey. Bats and purple martins are touted as great mosquito predators, and they can consume their fair share. But research has shown that mosquitoes comprise less than 1% of their total diet in the wild. Mosquitoes may play a role in the pollination of plants - both sexes, male and female, drink nectar for energy. Many species of flies are believed to be an important link in plant pollination - with the reduction of European honeybees due to parasites; flies have again emerged as the dominant species for pollination (the European honeybee is not native to this country, and before their introduction, flies and native bee species were the dominant pollinators). Mosquitoes are likely to play a small role in this as well.


  • Why do mosquitoes leave a bump after they bite? Only the female mosquito bites, to draw blood necessary for egg development. When a female mosquito pierces the skin with her proboscis (mouthparts), she injects a small amount of saliva into the wound before drawing blood. The saliva makes penetration easier and prevents the blood from clotting in the narrow channel of her food canal. The welts that appear after the mosquito leaves is not a reaction to the wound, but an allergic reaction to the saliva injected to prevent clotting. In most cases, the itching sensation and swellings subside within several hours. Some people are highly sensitive and symptoms persist for several days. Scratching the bites can result in infection if bacteria from the fingernails are introduced to the wounds.
  • Can mosquitoes transmit AIDS? The HIV virus that produces AIDS in humans does not develop in mosquitoes. Disease transmission by mosquitoes is a very complicated process. If HIV infected blood is taken up by a mosquito the virus is treated like food and digested along with the blood meal. If the mosquito takes a partial blood meal from an HIV positive person and resumes feeding on a non-infected individual, insufficient particles are transferred to initiate a new infection. If a fully engorged mosquito with HIV positive blood is squashed on the skin, there would be insufficient transfer of virus to produce infection. The virus diseases that use insects as agents of transfer produce tremendously high levels of parasites in the blood. The levels of HIV that circulate in human blood are so low that HIV antibody is used as the primary diagnosis for infection. For more information on this subject, please click here.


  • How long do mosquitoes live? Mosquitoes are relatively fragile insects with an adult life span that lasts about 2 weeks on average, depending on species. The vast majority meets a violent end by serving as food for predators, or are killed by the effects of wind, rain or drought. The mosquito species that only have a single generation each year are longer lived and may persist in small numbers for as long as 2-3 months if environmental conditions are favorable. Mosquitoes that hibernate in the adult stage live for 6-8 months but spend most of that time in a state of torpor (hibernation). Some of the mosquito species found in arctic regions enter hibernation twice and take more than a year to complete their life cycle.


  • Where do mosquitoes go in the winter? Mosquitoes, like all insects, are cold-blooded creatures. As a result, they are incapable of regulating body heat and their temperature is essentially the same as their surroundings. Mosquitoes function best at 80o F, become lethargic at 60o F and cannot function below 50o F. In tropical areas, mosquitoes are active year round. In temperate climates, adult mosquitoes of some species become inactive with the onset of cool weather and enter hibernation to live through the winter. Some kinds of mosquitoes have winter hardy eggs and hibernate as embryos in eggs laid by the last generation of females in late summer. The eggs are usually submerged under ice and hatch in spring when water temperatures rise. Other kinds of mosquitoes overwinter as adult females that mate in the fall, enter hibernation in animal burrows, hollow logs or basements and pass the winter in a state of torpor (these are the mosquitoes one might see on a warm January or February day). In spring, the females emerge from hibernation, blood feed and lay the eggs that produce the next generation of adults. A limited number of mosquitoes overwinter in the larval stage, often buried in the mud of freshwater swamps. When temperatures rise in spring, these mosquitoes begin feeding, complete their immature growth and eventually emerge as adults to continue their kind.


  • Why control mosquitoes at all? Mosquito control emerged at the beginning of this century once it was discovered that they can carry numerous viruses and bacterium, some fatal to man. Yellow Fever and Malaria were once endemic to this region, but are now either extremely rare or have been eliminated. Eastern Encephalitis, and now West Nile Virus, can also occur in Massachusetts, although more sporadically and without widespread human mortality. Mosquitoes have played an important role in the history of mankind - they have stopped wars, spread disease through entire populations, and altered human history in too many ways to count. It is estimated that mosquitoes have killed more human beings than all wars, famines and natural disasters combined - more humans than are alive today. 3-6 million people each year die from malaria alone, and up to 100 million are sickened annually. This is just from 1 disease transmitted by mosquitoes.


  • Do those new propane mosquito traps I see in the stores work?…..these devices will, indeed, trap and kill measurable numbers of mosquitoes. Whether this will produce a noticeable reduction in the mosquito population in your case will depend upon a number of factors, e.g. your tolerance level, absolute mosquito population size, proximity, size and type of breeding habitat producing re-infestation, wind velocity and direction, and species of mosquito present, among many other things. Depending upon their placement, wind direction, and trapping efficiency, traps may actually draw more mosquitoes into your area than they can possibly catch. Thus, the homeowner must still use repellents and practice source reduction methods as adjuncts to realize any measure of relief.**

** as excerpted from the AMCA website - check the full text here

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Common mosquito misconceptions:


  • *Electronic repellers really work!! No, they really don't. You shouldn't waste your money - your time is better spent surveying your area to eliminate mosquito breeding sources such as containers with water.


  • *Bug zappers control mosquitoes - the common ultraviolet "bug zapper" does not control mosquitoes, and can actually reduce populations of beneficial insects.


  • *If I have bat (or bird) houses, I won't have mosquitoes - Not really true - birds and bats may consume mosquitoes at times, but not so you would notice. They prefer larger prey and will not reduce the mosquito population appreciably.


  • I saw this male mosquito, and it was HUGE!! - Actually, you probably saw a crane fly - looks similar to a mosquito, but is much larger. Male mosquitoes are smaller than the female, has no proboscis (mouth parts for piercing the skin) and has fuzzy antennae. Most people will never see a male mosquito.


  • I have a mosquito nest in my tree - that is probably a tent caterpillar - mosquitoes do not nest.


  • Mosquitoes are coming from my grass (shrubs, trees, etc.) over there - Mosquitoes may rest in cool, shady vegetation, but cannot develop there - stagnant water is required for the first 3 stages of life.


*from the Rutgers University, NJ website: