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Project Premonition

Good luck avoiding mosquitoes

You can’t stop them, you can only hope to contain them.

Living in an area with so many mosquitoes means local officials can’t just ignore them, right? Harris County tries to lower the number of bugs both by spraying and introducing natural predators. The county can’t eradicate them entirely, but it can try to control bugs that have tested positive for diseases like the West Nile virus.

In Harris County, the mosquito problem peaks during the late summer months.

“It spikes up August and September, when it’s high time for hurricane weather that may trigger mosquito breeding to occur,” said Eddie Miranda, a Harris County Public Health spokesman.

Public health trucks rumble through the streets, spraying low-dose pesticides like pyrethrin and malathion to poison mosquitoes. It doesn’t hurt humans to the same degree, although people sensitive to pesticides should go indoors when crews come around. Crews spray one or twice a week in some parts of Midtown, downtown and the Northside.

The county has an app (iOSAndroid) that lets residents enter a ZIP code and find out where spraying is planned. It also includes a digital form to request mosquito breeding site inspection.

There are also other new, natural strategies from county teams to eliminate the pests, such as introducing carnivorous plants and predator bugs to chew them up. Which is good, considering a recent study found a species of mosquitoes found in the South are laying eggs that are better able to survive winter months.

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The New York Times’s Wirecutter has good options for mosquito repellants that aren’t meant to be applied to flesh. Top among their recommendations are Thermacell products, which release a scent-free vapor into the air and rids the immediate vicinity of mosquitoes.

You can spray and kill clouds of mosquitoes in your yard with pyrethrins spray, which targets the nervous system, but it won’t do much for repelling bugs. Citronella candles are also bunk — researchers have disproven the myth that the smell turns mosquitoes off.

Eliminate any still water that’s been outside your home for more than two days. Harris County Public Health recommends replacing the water in your pet’s bowls and birdbaths frequently to avoid mosquito larvae. Check flower pots, open barrels and toys as well.

Bugs need a cozy hiding place such as leaves clogging storm drains. The county recommends sweeping up the first signs of autumn to keep larvae from having a place to feed.

The story has more info about staying skeeter-free – wear long sleeves and long pants, always a delightful prospect in the Houston summer, and slather yourself with DEET – but do mind thosen prevention steps. The big guns around here include high tech traps, dragonflies and damselflies, and mutant mosquitoes. We’re playing the long game, y’all.

Building a better mosquito trap

I love this story.

Microsoft Mosquito Drone

Harris County officials are teaming up with tech-giant Microsoft to find and research mosquitoes that could carry the Zika virus or other mosquito-borne diseases, the county public health department said Tuesday.

As part of “Project Premonition,” 10 traps will be placed across Harris County. Each trap can transmit data on when the mosquito was trapped, the temperature, barometric pressure and humidity during capture, according to a statement from the public health department.

Drones could then be used to help detect mosquito hot spots and to set and collect traps, according to the news release. The data collected could be used to predict when and where certain mosquito-borne diseases occur, ideally before they occur.

“We believe autonomous systems and cloud computing have enormous potential to improve monitoring and prediction,” said Microsoft lead researcher and project lead Ethan Jackson in the statement. “This partnership with Harris County’s state-of-the-art mosquito control program creates a unique opportunity to apply and shape next-generation technologies together with public health leaders.”

The computerized traps can filter out other flies and insects that aren’t being targeted. County officials emphasized that mosquitoes carrying Zika had not yet been detected in Harris County.

Follow that link in the story for the techie details behind this. Why not study mosquitoes to see where they are most prevalent, and base your response on that rather than spraying indiscriminately? Makes sense to me. Just please don’t anyone take a potshot at one of the drones if you see one in your neighborhood. It’s a bad idea on many levels.