How to fight L.A.’s pesky, new “ankle-biter” mosquitos

Deanna Barnert

With West Nile in California, there’s a free county resource battling mosquitoes!

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Photo of an adult female Aedes albopictus "ankle-biter" mosquito during a blood meal./ courtesy of the CDC

(Los Angeles) Mosquitos are nothing new in Los Angeles, but the invasive, tiny Aedes mosquitoes are indeed a whole new infestation. While these so-called “ankle-biters” won’t spread COVID-19, their vicious attacks have locals losing their collective minds. At the same time, with the West Nile virus found in Los Angeles in July, our native Culex mosquitoes can present serious trouble.

That’s why L.A. County has five public health agencies dedicated to helping locals actively fight infestations of mosquitoes – for free! There are also things you can do to protect yourself and your family this summer, and NewsBreak got the rundown from an expert.

"Mosquitos are a nuisance, as well as a potential health hazard," sets up Aaron Arugay, Executive Director of Los Angeles County West Vector Control District. “And now we have two completely separate issues going on in L.A. County.”

The mosquitoes that have Angelenos groaning and cursing are those dastardly ankle-biters that first showed up in California in 2011. “These Aedes mosquitoes are very annoying and sneaky,” says Arugay. “People are getting so angry when they get bitten, but we're just lucky that the Aedes are not known to transmit any diseases in California… yet. The danger is that they might do so soon.

“And meanwhile, our homegrown Culex mosquitoes are not as mean and they're only biting at dusk and dawn... but they carry the West Nile virus,” Arugay continues. “They are carrying weapons, and the bad news is L.A. County has found mosquitoes and dead birds positive for West Nile.”

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California's native Culex quinquefasciatus mosquitos can carry West Nile Virus and give it to humans via bites./ courtesy of the CDC

With the West Nile virus identified in mosquitoes in Bellflower, Studio City, and Tarzana in mid-July; a San Luis Obispo County local became the first Californian to die from West Nile in 2021 in early July. While a bite from our native Culex could, in theory, kill us, however, it’s the Aedes mosquitoes that have most Angelenos reading this story. And unfortunately, they breed all summer, peaking in the fall – which means we’re just getting started!

How To Fight The Mosquitoes

If you’re getting bitten up, there’s likely an infestation on or around your property, and your local Vector Control agency can likely help.

L.A.’s Vector Control agencies are tasked with protecting their respective geographic communities from local “vectors” – which include any arthropod, insect, rodent, or other animals capable of harboring or transmitting human diseases like Zika, Yellow Fever, Dengue Fever, Chikungunya, and the afore-mentioned West Nile. While some agency offers services for vectors like midges, black flies, ticks and Lyme Disease, Africanized Honey Bees, or Red Imported Fire Ant, all five agencies are focused on mosquito control and mosquito surveillance.

In researching this story, this Aedes-bitten reporter put in a request for an inspection of her own property. Within 24-hours, a technician came out to perform an inspection and treated an infestation!

“It's not always that fast, but we pride ourselves on trying to get out there quickly,” Arugay says. “Even if these Aedes mosquitoes aren't a disease issue, right now, they can really ruin your time gardening or just hanging out with friends.”

With Aedes so challenging to control, however, Vector Control agencies need locals to do our part. It’s up to us to help eliminated Aedes breeding grounds, inside and outside our homes. "What you have to do is find anything that can hold a bottle cap of water, and then dump it," Arugay says. "It looks like such a small amount of water, but these Aedes mosquitoes will lay eggs in saucers underneath your plants, plant cuttings, vases of flowers, dog bowls…”

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With Aedes able breed in a teaspoon of water, be sure to dump any standing water in and around your home./ courtesy of the CDC

To protect standing water or containers that cannot be emptied out, like a drain or sump pump, you can use over-the-counter BTI Mosquito Dunks or Mosquito Bits – which are safe for humans, pets, honeybees, and other animals, but kill mosquito, black fly, and fungus gnat larvae.

In addition, if you have a dog bowl, birdbath, bouquet, or water feature you just can’t bring yourself to dump, flushing those out with fresh water every four to five days is essential – as the eggs can hatch in less than a week, but will die if dumped and dried out.

Ultimately, however, these mosquitoes aren't going anwyere. To stop the biting, the CDC recommends insect repellents with active ingredients such as DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, and Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (the last one is for adults only), as well as wearing long sleeves and pants. You may even want to treat your clothes with permethrin.

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The CDC recommends using repellents with active ingredients such as DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, and Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus./ courtesy of the CDC

“Use some repellent, and make sure you're following the label instructions,” Arugay concludes. “Use screens to keep mosquitoes from getting in your house, empty out everything that can hold water, and then, if you're still getting bitten, call your local vector control.”

Finding your vector control agency

With five Vector Control offices in Los Angeles County, locals must contact the one for their respective areas. You can use this finder to determine which public health agency services your area. In addition, here is the contact information for L.A. County's five Vector Districts, which are reflected in the map above:

1. Los Angeles County West Vector & Vector-Borne Disease Control District

6750 Centinela Avenue
Culver City, CA 90230
(310) 915-7370

https://www.lawestvector.org/

2. Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District (GLACVCD)

12545 Florence Avenue
Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670
(562) 944-9656

https://www.glacvcd.org/

3. Compton Creek Mosquito Abatement District

1224 S. Santa Fe Avenue
Compton, CA 90221
(310) 933-5321

https://www.comptoncreekmad.org/

4. San Gabriel Valley Mosquito & Vector Control District

1145 N. Azusa Canyon Road
West Covina, CA 91790
(626) 814-9466

https://www.sgvmosquito.org/

5. Antelope Valley Mosquito & Vector Control District

42624 6th Street East
Lancaster, CA 93535
(661) 942-2917

https://www.avmosquito.org/

You can find more do-it-yourself tips for protecting yourself from mosquitoes via the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) pages on mosquitoes and L.A. County's www.tiptosstakeaction.org.

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Deanna Barnert is a Los Angeles native and entertainment journalist with thousands of news stories, features and profiles published internationally. A member of the Television Critics Association, she’s written for "Emmy" magazine, MSN.com and SheKnows.com, served as News Editor for "Soaps In Depth," and interviewed some of your favorite stars and creators. A true Angeleno, Deanna knows L.A. is the best place to live... and the worst! She made her hometown more accessible to newcomers via her contribution to "The Complete Resident’s Guide to Los Angeles" and its pocket mini, "The Essential Tourist Guide" -- and now she's doing it for NewsBreak! Deanna is an avid traveler who lived in Madrid, Spain, for two years and did some time in NYC, but she always comes home. Check out what Deanna’s doing now by following @TVDeeva on social media.

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