Why do some people get more mosquito bites? What species of mosquitoes do we have in Cyprus and how dangerous are they? What substances are allowed to control outbreaks? In which areas is there a bigger problem? What are the dangers of infected mosquito bites and how can we protect ourselves from attacks? These and other questions from the public were answered by a team of entomologist researchers specializing in mosquitoes, which met a few days ago in Limassol as part of a program that funds research and information on the disturbing human species.
Recording in March
The day, entitled “I am learning my enemy”, was organized by the Cyprus Institute (IKY), in collaboration with the Health Services of the British bases (Joint Services Health Unit), Underwater Nature and TEPAK, while the team of scientists came from Cyprus, Italy, Greece, Romania, Albania, Turkey, Portugal, Spain, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Slovenia, Slovakia and Croatia.
In addition to the conference, while in Cyprus, the scientists organized for the coordinated research monitoring and recording of mosquito species throughout Europe, which will begin in March and last for two months.
The citizens who attended the meeting were first informed about the degree of danger of mosquito bites, but also about the dangers of infected tiger mosquitoes – known as Zika virus – which fortunately have not been detected, at least not yet, in Cyprus. . In Cyprus we do not have
also the species of mosquitoes that carry yellow fever. Speaking to “P”, entomologist and researcher Kelly Martinou, who works for the Joint Services Health Unit and IKY, said that since the tiger mosquito is already in our neighboring countries, including Greece (they have reached Crete), of Israel and Turkey, it is considered a given that at some point they will even reach our country. “We are waiting for them”, Mrs. Martinou had us typically, “because they are species that have expanded a lot in Europe”, stating that both the KD and the bases are taking the necessary measures.
Did you see a black and white mosquito?
“The reason they have not come yet,” he explained, “is because we are an island, but also because of the drier weather. Of course they arrived in Crete and that is why it is very important to have a monitoring program, especially in places such as airports, ports, marinas, so that if they come we can catch them quickly with various traps. But the monitoring system can be better if the citizens also participate “. According to Ms. Martinou, what citizens can do is call the authorities if they find a black and white mosquito.
During the event, Spanish professor Frederic Bartumeus presented an innovative, free mobile application Mosquito Alert, with which one can easily record the species of mosquitoes that are detected. Citizens, said Kelly Martinou, can photograph mosquitoes and upload photos to this app. “So the next time you crush them on the wall, take a picture and upload it. “This will help us more easily detect the presence of mosquitoes-tigers or yellow fever if they come to Cyprus, to trap them and fight them as early as possible, before the problem spreads which can be a blow to tourism.”
As he explained to us, in Cyprus live mosquitoes (also called useless) which are carriers of the West Nile virus, which are the common mosquitoes we find in our home. These are mosquitoes that are carriers of malaria, but in Cyprus this disease has been eliminated. They live mainly in wetlands and cause nuisance, but not disease. As Mrs. Martinou explained, this type of mosquito multiplies when we have a lot of rain, so this year it is expected that there will be an increase in mosquitoes and more annoyance.
Sometimes when mosquitoes, the scientist noted, have food, they can become large in size and is a species that we have in Cyprus. These mosquitoes, he added, most of the time do not bite humans but birds, as mosquitoes can feed on human blood as well as blood from birds and various mammals, even snakes.
Who do they bite the most?
One of the key questions asked by the public was who is most bitten by mosquitoes. According to the answers given by the researchers, and conveyed to us by Mrs. Martinou, they like pregnant women very much, while they choose us based on the bacteria we have in our body. “Some organisms have a combination of bacteria that is more attractive to mosquitoes. It's the way our sweat smells, and the more sweaty we are the more likely we are to attract them. They are also more attracted to carbon dioxide, so when we exhale we pull them towards us.
After they bite us
One question from the audience was why our hand swells when we are bitten by a mosquito. “It's because they secrete saliva into our skin, which has various bacteria and our system reacts to them. “It is best when a mosquito bites us not to scratch because it irritates the skin even more”, noted Ms. Martinou.
Only bacillus to fight
Protection from mosquitoes presupposes that we do not leave stagnant water, because according to Kelly Martinou, mosquitoes live and multiply in stagnant water before they become prosperous and fly and start biting us.
The scientists were adamant that spraying with chemicals does not save us from the problem. “As our colleagues told us, only one product is allowed in Europe to be used for control and that is a natural product called bacillus and we put it in water to kill mosquito larvae. They stressed that chemical spraying should not be done, which is not recommended by European legislation. Bacillus, they said, is very effective and there is nothing better on the market. Besides, it seems that mosquitoes acquire resistance to chemicals such as e.g. humans acquire antibiotic resistance. “On the contrary, they cannot become resistant to bacillus”, added Ms. Martinou.
One of the questions raised is whether it is good to release genetically modified mosquitoes to fight other mosquitoes, and what scientists have said is that it is not bad. In Cyprus, however, this technique is unnecessary as we do not yet have the species that it can fight.
In our country, according to Kelly Martinou, the biggest problem with mosquitoes is faced by the areas next to wetlands, such as the salt marshes of Larnaca, Akrotiri, Paralimni. There mosquitoes are very aggressive but do not transmit diseases.