To date there’s no evidence that the two mosquito species that carry the Zika virus have been found in Santa Barbara County, but Mosquito and Vector Management chief David Chang said it’s only a matter of time before they arrive. Chang said the closest either of the two Aedes species — aegypti and albopictus — have been found is Los Angeles and Kern counties. “We expect them to get here,” he said. “It’s serious.”
Two years ago, Chang’s department put out traps that came up negative. In about two weeks, he said, his agency will set out double the number. The Aedes mosquitos are small, dark, and marked by white stripes. They’re more aggressive than indigenous mosquitoes and bite all day long, not just at dawn and dusk. A. aegypti in particular, Chang said, targets humans as its prime source of food. As a peri-domestic species, the bug thrives in densely packed populations and in hotter, wetter tropical climates. This poses new challenges given that the Mosquito and Vector Management District traditionally targets pests found on the outskirts of human populations. “We’re going to have to be getting into neighborhoods,” Chang explained, “and in the cities.”
Chang said his agency traps most mosquitoes using dry-ice baits, which give off carbon dioxide that mimics human breath. These two, he said, are more drawn to bait that mimics human scent. Eradication procedures for the two new species will be identical to that of other mosquitoes. Residents will be asked to drain fountains and bird baths. The district will pass out, as it always does, mosquito fish. Health officials say that no cases of the Zika virus — which can cause serious birth defects — have been detected in Santa Barbara County.