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News > Shoo fly, don't bother me: Pest management battles summer nuisance
Shoo fly, don't bother me: Pest management battles summer nuisance

Posted 7/1/2013   Updated 7/1/2013 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Lauren-Taylor Levin
354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

7/1/2013 - EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Alaskan summers are synonymous with beautiful weather, nearly endless sunshine and swarms of mosquitoes.

Master Sgt. Joseph Luciani, 354th Civil Engineer Squadron NCO in charge of pest management, is familiar with mosquitoes. As pest manager, Luciani's overall mission is to make sure there are no disease outbreaks. His job consists of catching foreign insects or rodents, weed control and conducting food handling facility inspections year round.

His focus for the duration of the summer, however, is hunting mosquitoes.

Luciani captures mosquitoes primarily with a mosquito magnet, a device that burns propane. This generates carbon dioxide, warmth and water vapor. Those three elements, coupled with the chemical attractant heated in this process, lure the mosquitoes toward the flame, where they are then sucked into a net or holder.

"I caught 40,000 mosquitoes in just the first three weeks of summer on Eielson," said Luciani.

Once the mosquitoes are caught, they are frozen and delivered to the 354th Medical Group Public Health office to be tested at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, for the West Nile Virus. The female mosquitoes are the main priority because they are the ones that bite.

"As soon as we receive the mosquitoes, we separate the males from the females," said Senior Airman Kyle Stringer, 354th Medical Operations Squadron public health journeyman. "It's a long process, but we have to ensure that the female mosquitoes are intact when they are shipped off."

Recent records show that past and present batches of mosquitoes sent off for testing do not contain the West Nile Virus or any other diseases.

Like dragonflies, mosquitoes are a water-breeding insect. Once mosquitoes get their blood meal, they lay eggs in an area that will be full of water the following year. The eggs will lay dormant for a year or two until the water level rises, the eggs are immersed in water and they hatch within two weeks.

In Alaska, eggs hatch in early spring once the ice and snow starts melting. Some species breed in sewage which is below ground and not frozen. Once temperatures reach 40 degrees Fahrenheit, larvae will start emerging from the eggs.

"If I were able to treat all the standing water for larvae, I would probably cut the population of mosquitoes by 50 percent or more," said Luciani.

Breeding sites can vary from standing water in lawns, to containers, clogged down spouts, children's pools or old tires.

Standing water is the primary way mosquitoes multiply. Eliminating those areas can help to reduce the pest problem and contribute to a more comfortable and bite-free summer.

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