Peak mosquito season might be fading along with summer, but retailers in busy bug areas like South Florida can still take precautions. Zika has led many residents and visitors to limit their outdoor time and restaurants can take steps to ensure their establishments aren’t hot zones for bites.
“Summer is the higher breeding time for mosquitoes. There’s a lot more rain, too. We do have a lot more standing water in the summer,” says Desiree Straubinger, an etymologist and the Southeast market director with Rentokil North America, which provides pest control services for businesses. “The drainage ditches fill up with water from the rain. There’s a lot more water available in the summer.”
Although mosquitos have short life spans (about eight to 14 days for the two species that carry Zika), they lay about 200 to 300 eggs during their life cycle. Straubinger says the insects will lay their eggs in standing water, meaning windy areas like beaches and rivers are often too blustery. Intercoastal areas and lakes can be ideal breeding grounds but even restaurants far from a body of water are still subject to mosquito eggs.
Straubinger says any kind of receptacle that collects water—mop buckets, trashcans, condensation pans, uncovered jars and cups, dumpsters, and even clogged gutters—could be fertile breeding ground. Keeping these items dry can greatly reduce a restaurant’s susceptibility.
Beyond the building itself, water can also accumulate in nearby trees with cut branches or holes and on fallen branches. Once the larvae mature, the juveniles land on nearby vegetation and feed on nectar. The males will continue to consume nectar even after they mature while the females will feed on blood.
While most people might associate mosquito bites with evening hours, Straubinger says the two species carrying Zika are day fliers. Wearing light-colored, long-sleeved shirts and pants could help protect guests and employees, although such apparel may be uncomfortable and impractical in hot Florida temperatures.
“For their seating area, [restaurants can use] things like fans. Mosquitoes aren’t very strong flyers,” Straubinger says. “A fan outside or ceiling fans on high or even those mister fans, some kind air movement outside is helpful because mosquitoes wouldn’t fly into the area couldn’t. … Screening in their seating area would be awesome.”
Barrier treatments of larvacide around a restaurant’s property can also help as it prevents the eggs from pupating. Putting certain oils on still water sources like a retention pond coats the top and prevents larvae from breaking through the surface.
While Straubinger says she has never seen mosquitoes breeding inside of a restaurant, stray insects can find their way inside whenever a door is open. Simple solutions like air curtains, fans above the doors, and draftstops greatly reduce the chance of a stowaway.
By Nicole Duncan