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What Lurks in Your Backyard Could Kill You

I was visiting my sister in Homestead recently, when I made an ugly discovery. My very own sister was contributing to the mosquito population!

These are actual sites where I found mosquito breeding in my sister's backyard.  These type of mosquitoes are the ones that are capable of spreading dengue fever in the Southern United States.
These are actual sites where I found mosquito breeding in my sister's backyard. These type of mosquitoes are the ones that are capable of spreading dengue fever in the Southern United States.
Trays and saucers underneath potted plants need to be rinsed at least twice a week to prevent mosquitoes from hatching.

We were sitting out by the pool early one morning, enjoying a cup of coffee (she a cup of green tea), and I commented on the large number of mosquitoes that were swarming our ankles. "Oh yeah, they're bad here," she said. I quickly put together the time of day and the fact that these were ankle-biters, and concluded they must be reproducing in nearby containers of standing water.

Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti mosquitoes prefer to lay their eggs on the sides of empty containers, wherein they hatch after the container has filled with enough water to produce a suitable larval environment. The adult mosquitoes don't tend to fly more than about 20 yards, and prefer dawn and dusk for their blood seeking, however will bite all day if the opportunity arises. I looked around her yard and realized that she had a half dozen or more potted palms, all sitting in trays that were full of water -- and mosquito larvae! My very own sister!

I gave her a stern lecture about keeping these sorts of containers rinsed out, and explained to her that these two particular species of mosquitoes are key players in the spread of dengue fever, a disease that has been making a comeback in South Florida over the last few years. While dengue fever does not have a high mortality rate, it can certainly make you wish you were dead, and contracting it more than once puts one at risk for the more devastating and lethal dengue hemorrhagic fever.

In the coming months and years, it's going to be up to homeowners to perform their own mosquito control operations, rinsing out any containers that hold water around their own backyards. No mosquito control organization in the nation has the manpower to go from house to house and do it for them, and there is no other effective way to treat for these type of mosquitoes.

Another favorite plant of Floridians is the bromeliad, which is yet a further culprit when it comes to mosquito infestations. These hollow plants can hold enough water in each cup-like stem to host 100 new mosquitoes or more at a time. Often dried leaves resting on top of the opening give the impression that the plant is dry, but once the debris is removed, the stem turns out to be full of water -- and larvae!

After diligently rinsing out all the pots and plants around the yard, we sat back down to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Then I happened to glance at the table next to me. On it sat a bowl full of water with a small plant that was rooting. I lifted the plant and -- you guessed it, larvae!