WEST NILE VIRUS AND STAGNANT WATER
Why should mosquito populations be reduced?
West Nile virus (WNv) is a mosquito-borne illness that can be transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. Reducing mosquito populations helps to reduce the spread of WNv and other infections spread by mosquitoes, thus reducing the risk of disease in humans.
Why should we be concerned about stagnant water?
Mosquitoes lay their eggs in water that is stagnant, shallow and high in organic matter. Mosquitoes complete three stages of their life cycle in the water (egg, larva and pupa) in about 4 to 14 days. As a result, standing water must remain stagnant for a minimum of 4 days in order to support the mosquito’s life cycle. Elimination of potential mosquito breeding sites is the primary control measure used to reduce mosquito populations.
Not all bodies of water are ideal breeding sites for mosquitoes. For example, water accumulations on roof tops are generally not an issue due to wind action and a lack of organic matter.
How can I reduce or eliminate stagnant water…
Some sources of stagnant water can be drained or removed so mosquitoes cannot breed (e.g. change water in birdbaths weekly). Others sources, like ponds, require good design and construction plus regular maintenance to make them unsuitable breeding sites for mosquitoes. This includes ensuring a good location, drainage, wind and adjustment of water levels.
Some bodies of water such as ditches, storm water management ponds and natural wetlands cannot be removed as they play important roles in storm water drainage and maintenance of the environment.
…on my property?
The most common mosquito species associated with WNv is the Culex species. This species is usually an urban-dwelling, container-breeding mosquito. Culex mosquitoes generally do not fly very far. As a result, adult mosquitoes are usually found close to their breeding sites. The following simple steps can be taken to eliminate potential mosquito breeding sites in and around your home:
- Remove unused objects, garbage and refuse that might collect stagnant water (tires, plastic bags, etc.).
- When not in use, turn over items such as wading pools, recycling boxes, wheelbarrows and small boats/canoes.
- Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs. Cover when not in use.
- At least once per week, drain water that collects on pool covers and in window boxes, flower pots, etc.
- At least once per week, change water in wading pools, bird baths and pet food/water dishes.
- Aerate ornamental ponds.
- Cover rainwater barrels with a fine mesh or screen.
- Do not wash grass clippings or leaves down roadside catch basins.
- Turn compost over on a regular basis.
- Keep roof gutters clean and unclogged.
…in an ornamental pond?
- Construct the base of the pond using a non-porous material such as concrete or stone. Ponds without a non-porous base are essentially pits in the ground and they will have much more organic matter at the bottom that can provide a food source for mosquito larvae.
- Remove excess vegetation. Leaves and organic matter in and around the pond will provide a food source for mosquito larvae. Clean up the surrounding area frequently to remove this food source.
- Construct the pond with a steep slope to a depth of at least 60cm. Mosquito larvae prefer shallow water. By constructing the pond with a steep slope and at least a 60cm water depth, mosquitoes are less likely to breed. Check local by-laws regarding fencing requirements around ornamental ponds.
- Locate the pond in an open space, unsheltered from the wind. Most mosquito larvae are not able to mature if the surface of the water is disturbed by currents or winds. The wind causes surface water movement, discouraging adult mosquitoes from laying their eggs.
- Maintain the pond and surrounding area. Regular maintenance is necessary to prevent long grasses from growing around the edges of the pond. Tall, heavy vegetation around the edges of ponds will provide a wind barrier that may result in stagnant water, thus creating a potential mosquito breeding site.
- Install an aerator or fountain. Solar powered or electrical aerators and/or water fountains help keep water moving, making the pond less attractive for mosquitoes to use for breeding. The effectiveness of the aerator or fountain is directly related to the size of the pond.
- Introduce mosquito-eating fish. The addition of mosquito-eating fish such as gold fish and koi in self-contained ponds may help to control mosquito breeding. Please check with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources since permits are required before any fish are introduced into the pond. (see MNR contact below).
What about ditches?
Ditches can be potential mosquito breeding sites if they are not properly designed and maintained. Regional and municipal public works departments monitor and maintain ditches on their property to ensure proper drainage and water flow. For more information, contact your local public works department.
Ditches on private property should be routinely maintained (e.g., mowed, sediment and debris removed) to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in the area. Alternatively, depressions and unnecessary ditches can be filled with clean soil to reduce the ponding of water. Check municipal “fill” by-laws prior to undertaking such action.
What about storm water management ponds?
Storm water management ponds (SWMPs) are not generally considered to be good mosquito breeding sites. Changes in water level and exposure to wind are some of the factors that help deter mosquitoes from laying their eggs along the surface of the water. However, where rock formations, vegetation and/or debris exist, there may also exist pockets of standing water where mosquitoes might be encouraged to breed.
In 2003, the Durham Region Health Department conducted a study of storm water management ponds to determine whether these conditions give rise to potential breeding sites. For a summary of this study please visit our website at www.durham.ca - West Nile virus.
What about natural wetlands such as lakes, swamps or streams?
Research suggests that stagnant water pockets in urban areas (e.g. roadside catch basins, old tires) will tend to contain the highest populations of the species of mosquitoes commonly associated with WNv. While natural wetlands can also be potential mosquito breeding sites, they do not tend to produce the same mosquito species. Natural wetlands are balanced ecosystems that tend to contain predatory fish, birds, frogs and insects that will help control mosquito populations. These natural water bodies require special consideration, as they are an essential part of the water cycle and they play an important role in ensuring water quality and quantity. Since 2003, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) has been conducting yearly monitoring of the larval mosquito populations in a number of natural areas (e.g. marshes, ponds, woodland pools, etc.) throughout Durham Region. The results of this monitoring program are available on the TRCA website. (see the TRCA contact information below).
It is recommended that you consult with the following agencies prior to implementing any stagnant water management activities in a natural wetland area:
50 Bloomington Road West,
Aurora, Ontario L4G 3G8
Phone: (905) 713-7387
100 Whiting Avenue
Oshawa, Ontario L1H 3T3
5 Shoreham Drive
Downsview, Ontario M3N 1S4
For more information on West Nile Virus, visit our website at www.durham.ca
More information can be obtained from
Durham Region Health Department, Environmental Help Line, 905-723-3818 or 1-888-777-9613.
April 22, 2013