Mosquito problem worsened by Covid-19 restrictions
Cayman’s mosquito problem has always increased around this time of year when the beginning of rainy season starts the breeding cycle, but anyone currently undertaking outdoor activity, especially in the morning and early evening, will know this year’s suffering seems worse than ever.
The severity of the mosquito onslaught this year drove Newlands MLA Alva Suckoo Jr, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, to speak with Jim McNelly, Director of Cayman’s Mosquito Research and Control Unit, (MRCU) on the subject.
Mosquitoes breed according to the tides and the presence of rain, and Cayman has had a combination of both high tides and heavy rain in most areas, triggering a breeding cycle. Cayman residents are now experiencing the end result of this cycle which is a huge increase in the mosquito population, Mr Suckoo reported.
The MRCU has been actively larviciding and spraying for adults but this effort has been hampered by issues relating to Covid-19 restrictions, including some MRCU staff only working partial days due to personal circumstances. The department has been focused on larviciding (preventing larvae from becoming adult mosquitoes) but with the combined effect of the rains, tides, and lack of full-time resources this has been unfortunately less successful than in the past, the MRCU reported.
The MRCU planes have been spraying to kill adults and larviciding, but the limit on flight hours for pilots shut down flights on Friday and the closure of the airport over the weekend means that at times the aircraft control tower has not been working and this has reduced the usage of the planes, the MLA said.
“While the MRCU has made efforts to treat as wide an area as possible, current resources and limitations have allowed them to treat about 500 acres of wetland and there is a total of approximately 10,000 acres of wetland that can potentially produce mosquitoes,” Mr Suckoo outlined. “We are now experiencing potentially the peak of this triggered breeding cycle and MRCU expects the population to begin to decline.”
The average expected lifetime of the adult mosquito is approximately two weeks, so some will begin to naturally die off, but the MRCU says it will also ramp up measures aerial spraying for adults and trucks will also be spraying from the ground across the three islands.
“It is hoped that residents will start to see a reduction in the mosquito population this week and a return to normal in the next few days,” Mr Suckoo said.
In addition to the above, Mr Suckoo said he had submitted a Parliamentary Question to Environment Minister Dwayne Seymour who is responsible for MRCU, on the use of the dykes to control the mosquito population.
“I have noticed that the dykes have become overgrown and I suspect that the culverts used to allow the seawater to enter the dykes are also not functioning,” he explained. “This discussion will hopefully provide some answers and opportunities to address this problem, as the dykes do provide a natural (non-chemical) solution for mosquito control. The solution is not perfect, but I am sure that if they were functioning as intended the problem would be less significant. The LA meeting begins on Monday and I am looking forward to this discussion with the Minister.”
Mr Suckoo acknowledged that the current circumstances are “quite bad”, and he “had not seen it like this in a long time”. He said he had been assured by the Director that he was taking the appropriate steps to ensure that this breeding cycle is properly controlled and that we avoid future recurrences.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition urged residents to take precautions to avoid being bitten, keep yards clear of anything that would encourage mosquitoes breeding, such as containers of water being left out and areas of high grass or brush. Please also keep an eye on your pets if they are outdoors, he said, adding: “I am hopeful that we will start to see some relief this week.”