Santa Clara County will have a new tool in the battle against West Nile virus and the mosquitoes that carry it. In early May, the County of Santa Clara Vector Control District started using unmanned aircraft systems, also known as drones, to apply larvicides in wetlands and other nonresidential areas.
Vector Control received approval for the process from the County Board of Supervisors on April 18. The County says the primary goal of the drone program is to protect public health.
“It is critical for the District to access and treat marshland and other remote, nonresidential areas in Santa Clara County that serve as breeding habitat for mosquitoes, which can transmit West Nile virus and other diseases once they mature. Some mosquitoes found in the Bay Area can fly up to 25 miles once they become adults,” read the County news release.
The use of drones to try and eliminate larval mosquitoes has become a growing trend among state vector control agencies. States like Florida already use the systems.
“The Vector Control District’s new drone program will protect not only public health but also our staff and the surrounding environment,” said Edgar Nolasco, Director of the County’s Consumer and Environmental Protection Agency. “Applying larvicide with drones is precise and effective and minimizes disruption to the ecosystem along the Bay.”
According to the County, the use of drones for mosquito control has several benefits, including:
- Reducing the need for District staff to access difficult terrain and improving employee safety.
- Minimizing impacts on the local ecosystem.
- Precise application of larvicides.
The drones will be used in conjunction with mosquito fogging, which happens annually in residential areas where mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus are discovered.
Winter Rains Fuel Mosquito Breeding
The extremely wet winter helped play a part in the growth of the Bay Area’s mosquito population. Officials say Santa Clara has a “surplus of stagnant water” that has created “ample breeding sources for mosquitoes.” As is customary every year, the District is asking people to remove any source of stagnant water on their properties.
“Mosquito control is a community effort,” said Nolasco. “To protect yourselves and your neighbors from mosquito-borne diseases, we encourage you to regularly check your property for sources of standing water and remove them.”
You can do the following to do your part:
- Inspect for standing water on a weekly basis.
- Drain or turn over anything that can hold water, such as flowerpots, planter bases, pet dishes, buckets and old tires.
- Clean items like bird baths and pet bowls once a week to remove mosquito eggs.
- Clear debris from rain gutters on a regular basis to allow water to flow.
- Properly screen rain barrels, cisterns and irrigation drains to prevent mosquito access.
- Fix leaky water faucets and broken sprinkler heads and avoid overwatering lawns and plants.
- Ensure swimming pool water levels are adequate for proper circulation and filtration.
If you are being bothered by mosquitoes or know of a potential mosquito-breeding source, you can contact Vector Control at (408) 918-4770. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org, or submit an online service request.
If you have standing water as part of your landscaping, a neglected pool or spa, or water trough, you can request free mosquitofish from Vector Control. Mosquitofish eat mosquito larvae. For more information on the County’s mosquitofish program, visit www.sccvector.org/mosquitofish.