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Permaculture solutions to Zika Virus, Dengue Fever  RSS feed

 
Kyle Jaster
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I'm sure many of you are worried about the latest news about the Zika Virus, which has recently been found in the US. As usual, I got to think "what's the permaculture solution" and found out I wasn't the first: thought you all might enjoy this report on using sambo fish to eat mosquito larvae, in some cases almost completely eradicating mosquitos near a school. They have used Sambo fish since 2012 and have had no cases of Zika in the area since using the fish.

http://www.dw.com/en/mosquito-eating-fish-battle-zika-virus/av-19012096


Anyone else seen other solutions, or know of other fish that would fit the bill?
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9741
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Our native Texas Gambusia are super at eating mosquitoes. So are Dragonflies.

Probably the best defense against disease is healthy people in a healthy ecosystem, so any kind of ecosystem repair, especially repair of watersheds, will be beneficial, I think.
 
Andrea Hooper
Posts: 25
Location: College Station, TX Zone 8b
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I hear muscovy ducks are mosquito eaters. Sounds like a perfectly delicious soluction.
 
Ben Stallings
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Location: Emporia, KS
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Even goldfish will eat mosquito larvae. I know people who put a goldfish in each household rain barrel. You do have to feed them and check that they're still alive, so it's not a maintenance free solution!
 
Su Ba
pollinator
Posts: 979
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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I live in the middle of a dengue fever outbreak right now. The past couple of months I have been working intensely on controlling mosquitos in my own area plus helping others do the same. But just going after mosquitos isn't enough to stop an outbreak. Because there are little places where mosquitos can breed that we can't reach, we need to take steps not to be bitten. Thus many people here are using various mosquito repellents and blockers (net, long sleeves, long pants). Not all are taking this outbreak seriously, because there are still people coming down with it weekly. But several communities have managed to successfully rid their areas of infected mosquitos.

A non-permie step taken here in order to knock down the population of adult (and possibly infected) mosquitos was to fog those areas we could not effectively reach. In my own region, those areas only needed to be fogged once. Permie type controls afterwards appears to be controlling mosquitos successfully.

Permie type steps that work:
...eliminate all standing water. This includes tires, trash piles, items stored outdoors like children toys, wheelbarrows, plant pots, buckets, tarps. Anything and everything that could hold a tablespoonful of water. It was amazing what I found sitting around people's yards collecting water.
...clean out all rain gutters. Repair gutters and reslope them, or if that is not feasible (it wasn't on some of the old houses) drill a tiny hole at the low spots and mark them. During a rain these holes will clog and not leak much. So the day after a rain the homeowner needs to simply poke a thin wire on the end of a long stick into the hole, opening it up and allowing sitting water to drain.
...cover and treat all water tanks, and treat all boggy areas. We used bt granules to treat the water. In the case of household catchment tanks, we had people get their drinking/cooking water from the county water taps.
...put guppies or mosquito fish into all livestock water troughs, ponds, and ag catchment tanks. We could have used goldfish, baby koi, or baby tilapia, but I have plenty of guppies and mosquito fish to go around. The trick with the fish is to not overstock the pond or tank. It only takes a few fish to keep the pond clear of mosquito larvae. And unless one intends to breed extra fish, the fish don't need to be fed. They will simply eat their own excess population along with stray insects, algae, and decaying plant material (depending on the type of fish).

I have not found dragonflies to be effective mosquito controllers with a case of dengue fever outbreak. If one sees plenty of dragonflies, that just means that there are plenty enough mosquitos around to support the dragonfly population. Sadly, now that mosquitos have been aggressively controlled in my region, I don't see dragonflies around anymore. A causality of the war I suppose.

I also don't find ducks to be effective mosquito controllers. Even on properties with free range muscovies, I saw ponds loaded with mosquito larvae. By the way, mosquito larvae drop down out of duck-range at the approach of any duck. They don't hang around the surface. Ducks, dragonflies, and bats may all help for routine mosquito control, but they are not the means for eliminating enough mosquitos to protect people from mosquito borne diseases.

Frustratingly, the type of mosquito that transmits dengue and zika need only a small amount of water to breed. So eliminating all those little water spots is extremely difficult. Plus people tend to get lax and allow water to build up again. Luckily this mosquito type is not a traveller. They tend to stay in an area less than 1000' for where they hatched out. So you can eliminate them from your area if you are aggressive and diligent.

Mosquito netting works well with this mosquito. Most screens work. Simply wearing long sleeves and long pants helps a lot. I've seen gardeners who don't want to use DEET wear a mosquito net hat. I know one who wore a complete suit during the most dangerous month here. It works but is warm. Using those electric tennis racket type mosquito wackers makes is easy to get those few skeeters that sneak into the house.

By doing nothing or by doing too little, dengue fever took hold here on my island. It's been here for months now and is costing the county and residents hundreds of thousands of dollars. All because it wasn't squashed in the first month. Now it is a bugger to eliminate. My advice would be that if zika shows up in your area, enlist the help of every non-profit or community oriented group to aggressively campaign and go out to eliminate mosquitos the very first 30 days. Get info from the CDC as to effective mosquito traps (there are a few good ones that people are now getting around here.) You can never get rid of all the mosquitos but the idea is to get the numbers way down. Plus teach people how to avoid getting bitten.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9741
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Here in my area hollow trees collect water and can hold it for weeks, providing habitat for frogs - and mosquitos. It wouldn't be possible to eliminate or treat all natural mosquito habitat without endangering populations of other critters who are part of the ecosystem.

I expect people to panic and start dumping poison all around, killing everything indescriminately.
 
Su Ba
pollinator
Posts: 979
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
122
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Terry, I too was worried that people might start dumping poisons into every puddle of water. So we did things in our area in addition to handing out the county's dengue info sheets.
1- I bought numerous large containers of mosquito granules (bt). I then doled out small amounts for free to area residents, showing them how easy and safe it was to use the granules. I then gave them info on how to order them online for themselves. While I paid for the original six bottles of granules, I could have gone to businesses, churches, non-profit community groups in order to solicit money for them. A small community here, Miloli'i, actually set up a gofundme to raise money to purchase mosquito controls for their residents. Anyway, once people saw how easy and much cheaper the bt granules were, they didn't resort to toxins.
2- I got a local business to donate numerous 55 gallon plastic barrels. We cut them in half to make mini-fish ponds. We then set these up (in the shady spots)on properties with lots of mosquitos, filled them with pond water, and stocked them with fish. As the female mosquitos lay their eggs there, the fish will eat the hatched larvae. This act not only helped control future generations of mosquitos, but it reassured homeowners that they didn't need to dump toxins everywhere. We also beautified the barrels by piling lava rocks around them, making them a thing of beauty rather than a junk half barrel sitting under a tree.
3- I showed people how to safely use simple liquid dish soap to help kill mosquito larvae in water. We have lots of ornamental bromeliads, pineapples, and banana trees around here that hold water at the bottom of there stems/leaves. Spraying a very soapy solution into the plants breaks the surface tension of the water, preventing the larvae from being able to breathe. Thus they die. It's far, far cheaper than using toxins, so people will do it.

Offer the people a cheaper, easier solution to toxins and they will take it. At least, that's what happened here.
 
Nicole Alderman
garden master
Posts: 1529
Location: Pacific Northwest
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I've found that dragonflies help for part of the summer, but not all of it. The month of July is horrible here for mosquitoes (we have a pond and wetlands). In June, not many mosquitoes have hatched (or the frogs/tadpoles have eaten them?), but the mosquito production ramps up in July. Most of the dragonflies don't seem to hatch out until August. Once they do, we have very few mosquitoes (except in a few locations where we just avoid.) But, July is a big month for playing outside and gardening, and staying inside all day really isn't that great of an option. Supposedly plants like citronella, lemon balm, lemon grass, catnip, marigolds, lavender, rosemary, garic, geraniums and penyroyal (http://www.naturallivingideas.com/11-plants-that-repel-mosquitoes/) do a good job of repelling mosquitoes. So, it might be a good idea to plant a bunch of these all around your house/patio to keep your zone 0/1 safe, especially since that's where children and adults tend to linger the most.
 
Mike Turner
Posts: 329
Location: Upstate SC
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I've found bladderwort (Ultricularia gibba) to be very effective at mosquito control. It's an floating aquatic carnivorous plant that resembles a green filamentous algae, but with yellow flowers and small bladders that act as suction traps to catch small aquatic organisms, including mosquito larva. It is very hardy and is native to every continent except Antarctica (in North America is native north into Canada). Mosquitoes can detect its presence in the water and refuse to lay eggs in water where it is growing. Around here, I use it to mosquito-proof plant saucers, tubs of water chestnut, water hyacinth, and other containers of water that are too small, too shallow, or too intermittently flooded to support fish and it will survive winter freezing. It can grow in anything from water to moist mud and can tolerate full sun to light shade. You just break off pieces of it and stick them wherever needed.
 
Burra Maluca
Mother Tree
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Location: Portugal
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I just read this very interesting article about links between chemical mosquito treatments used in areas where the zika virus is rampant being a likely cause of the microcephaly outbreak

Larvicide Manufactured By Monsanto Partner, Not Zika Virus, True Cause Of Brazil's Microcephaly Outbreak



Here are a few quotes from the article.

According to the Physicians in Crop-Sprayed Towns (PCST), a chemical larvicide that produces malformations in mosquitoes was injected into Brazil's water supplies in 2014 in order to stop the development of mosquito larvae in drinking water tanks...

"Malformations detected in thousands of children from pregnant women living in areas where the Brazilian state added pyriproxyfen to drinking water is not a coincidence"...

The group of Argentine doctors points out that during past Zika epidemics, there have not been any cases of microcephaly linked with the virus. In fact, about 75 percent of the population in countries where Zika broke out had been infected by the mosquito-borne virus.


If there's any truth in this, then permaculture methods of control are greatly needed!
 
Mike Turner
Posts: 329
Location: Upstate SC
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I always thought there was something suspicious about it since microcephaly hadn't been reported in any of the countries that were infected by the zika virus prior to its arrival in Brazil.
 
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