Mosquitoes, worst ever

Published in Forum items

Despite the local authorities' attempts to control mosquitoes with pesticides, many have complained that the mosquitoes on the island are more virulent than ever.

 A few examples from communications with Eco Hvar:

"We have been visiting the island on a regular basis for the last ten years and have just returned to England after three weeks in Jelsa.
This has been by far the worst visit in terms of mosquito bites. The incidence seems to be rising year on year. I understand that before our visit the streets were sprayed twice with a strong mixture of poisons in the space of just over a month. Whatever is being done, clearly isn’t working and it is, in fact, having the opposite effect from what is needed." Lynne, UK, e-mail 20th August 2014.

"Some friends who visited Pitve have told me that the mosquitoes were a real problem. Their ten-year-old daughter was so badly bitten on her face that she wanted to go back to Vienna immediately." S., Vienna, e-mail August 2014.

"A young child in our family was so badly bitten by mopsquitoes that we called in the pest control firm to spray our house, but after the spraying the mosquito problem was just as bad!" Verbal communication, Hvar Town, August 2023.

Eco Hvar. There are other, more promising approaches to the mosquito problem:

Some countries are studying the problem with care and choosing ecologically sound solutions. Brazil, which was following on from experiments in Australia, released tens of thousands of mosquitoes infected with a bacterium (called Wolbachiapipientis) which acts as a vaccine against dengue fever in a preventive programme, which started in 2012. The aim was to reduce the number of mosquitoes carrying the dengue fever virus, which in Brazil affected some 3.2 million people, with 800 deaths between 2009 and 2014. The programme in Australia was proven to be effective in reducing the number of disease-carrying mosquitoes.

Another approach, pioneered by British biotechnology firm Oxitec, has been to breed genetically modified mutant male mosquitoes whose offspring die before adulthood, therefore reducing the numbers of disease-carrying mosquitoes. Experimental release of millions of these insects was done in secrecy in various countries, starting on Grand Cayman Island,a nd later in India, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Panama among others. In places where mosquito-borne diseases are not a particular threat, the policy of releasing genetically modified mosquitoes has come under question. In early 2015, plans were under discussion to release millions of genetically modified mosquitoes three times a week in Florida as a preventive measure. There was particular concern about the possible effects if a human should be bitten by one of these mosquitoes, although Oxitec claimed it would do its utmost to release only male mosquitoes, which do not bite humans.

An updated approach to controlling insects has been taken up in Croatia to use against mosquitoes in recent years.. In July 2022, the Croatian National Institute for Health announced a pilot project to introduce sterile male mosquitoes into the environment in the village of Premantura (Medulin Municipality), in association with the Teaching Institute for Public Health (Istria County) and the Biology Department of the J.J.Strossmayer University, Osijek. The concept is known as 'Sterile Insect Technique'. The International Atomic Energy Agency, which helped to finance the project, describes the technique as "an environmentally-friendly insect pest control method involving the mass-rearing and sterilization, using radiation, of a target pest, followed by the systematic area-wide release of the sterile males by air over defined areas, where they mate with wild females resulting in no offspring and a declining pest population." In June 2023, Zagreb announced it was releasing 100,000 sterile mosquitoes into the environment, with an accompanying video showing the release operation. The mosquitoes were released in the Cvjetno naselje, near the River Sava . In Pula, 1,200,000 sterile mosquitoes were to be released over a three-month period. The plan in June 2023 was for Pula to set up its own factory producing sterile mosquitoes, after two years of importing them from Bologna in Italy (report in Croatian).

Still experimental: Although the Sterile Insect Technique has been in use on different targets since the 1950s, the details for targeting each type of insect are not the same. Sterilization of mosquitoes is done by gamma-ray or X-ray irradiation. According to research being done in the United States, the sterilization techniques were still being improved in 2023 (Entomology Today, July 2023; article in the Journal of Medical Entomology, published 21 June 2023).

Personal preventive measures

A strong immune system is vital defence against mosquito-borne diseases as al other infecetions. So a healthy diet, combined with regular exercise and adequate rest are mandatory. One should avoid, or at least minimize debilitating factors such as processed foods and drinks, refined sugar and flour, caffeine and alcohol. Personal hygiene, especially frequent hand washing, is an essential part of infection prevention.

More articles about mosquitoes, how to deal with them - and how not to deal with them:

Mosquitoes: friends and foes?

Poisoning paradise, a wake-up call!

God save our bees!

About the insect suppression programme

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