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There are around 51 mosquito species found in Massachusetts, and 12 of these species are currently known to transmit diseases to mammals. The two mosquito species that pose the greatest risk to residents in urban areas of Massachusetts are Culex pipiens and Culex restuans. Each of these species transmits the West Nile virus to humans, and while the C. restuans species relies on both natural and artificial water sources for breeding, the C. pipiens species relies solely on artificial water sources for breeding, making the latter species a greater threat to the public than the former. Artificial water sources include water that gathers in various objects that are common on urban and residential landscapes. For example, after rainfall, water will gather in old tires, buckets, flower pot saucers, bird feeders, kiddie-pools, beverage cups and cans, and any type of manmade object that can hold water. Any object that can gather even the smallest amount of water provides mosquitoes with a breeding site. Last week it was announced that public health officials found the the first West Nile-infected mosquitoes this year in Massachusetts.

The Department of Public Health revealed that the first sample of mosquitoes carrying West Nile in Massachusetts had been found in Boston. Luckily, public health officials have not found any human or animal cases of West Nile this year, but the risk of contracting the disease steadily increases throughout the summer before peaking in August. Last year, public health officials reported a record number of 49 West Nile cases in Massachusetts, so residents should be vigilant about applying mosquito-repellent that contains DEET or lemon eucalyptus. It should also be remembered that disease carrying mosquitoes are most active between dusk and dawn. In addition to keeping your yard free of standing water, and regularly applying DEET-based repellents, it is important to protect your home from mosquitoes by regularly removing leaves and other sorts of debris from your home’s gutters, as rainwater will remain standing in clogged gutters, providing mosquitoes with an ideal breeding source. Keeping screens on all windows and outside doors is essential, and screens that have holes should be replaced or repaired in order to prevent the dangerous bugs from infiltrating your home.

Do you think that this year Massachusetts will see a smaller number of West Nile cases than last year?