Originally published in the Spartan Daily February 24, 2010: Click here for link
Santa Clara County’s Vector Control District (VCD) applied a spray over the country to prevent the surfacing of the Aedes squamiger mosquito on Feb. 17, according to a VCD news release.
Since the spray has been completed, the mosquito no longer possess a threat to SJSU or Santa Clara County, said Jeffrey Honda, a biological science professor and entomologist at SJSU.
The Aedes squamiger, also known as the California salt marsh mosquito, is not only an aggressive biter, but is one of the few types of mosquito that bites people during the day versus in the evening, Honda said.
When the mosquitoes hatch, mostly in March and April, they have the ability to travel up to 20 miles from their homes and breeding grounds and vigorously bite people and other animals, Honda said.
“That’s really freaky,” said Desiree Thomas, a freshman health science major. “These insects can fly so far and specifically target humans.”
A helicopter treatment that covered about 400 acres, which used environmentally safe chemicals and affected no residences or business, was used, according to the news release.
This specific type of mosquito has not been linked to West Nile virus, although their bite might cause discomfort, Honda said.
“This specific mosquito’s mechanism is ineffective and unsuccessful to transfer West Nile virus, but it’s one of the most aggressive biters of people,” he said.
Since the salt water marsh is not linked to West Nile virus, the reason for the spray is more of a pest control and providing comfort for people in Santa Clara County, according to the news release.
“This spray is more of a comfort factor rather than a disease factor,” said Victor Romano, VCD operations supervisor.
The spray was a success, and Santa Clara County should be in the clear, Romano said.
“We don’t have to worry too much, because (the county) is spraying, but if they were not spraying then we would have a problem”, Honda said. “Usually people get worried when the country does not do these sprays on an area.”
The salt marsh mosquito lays its eggs in moist soil, which then hatch in spring and summer time. The eggs can survive for years through weather conditions, such as high tides and seasonal rains, according to the news release.
Michael Stafferson, a junior communications major, said what bothers him about the salt water marsh mosquito is that, unlike most mosquitoes, it is not nocturnal.
“It’s bad enough during the summer nights (that) mosquitoes are a big pain, but now there are these ones that bite in the day,” he said.
A salt water marsh, where the mosquito gets part of its name, is a place where fresh water runs into the bays, Honda said.
“A mixture of fresh and salt water is a perfect environment for them,” he said.
Honda said that, though people of Santa Clara County prefer this spray, he has concerns in regard to what this treatment could potentially do for the ecosystem, he said.
Even though the spray is intended to target this specific mosquito, it will kill other mosquitoes and flies. With that, other animals might have fewer insects to eat, Honda said.
“Wouldn’t the spray mess the way other animals eat?” Stafferson said. “Then people wonder why some species go extinct.”