A town in south-west France has become the first in the country to introduce a forecast for… mosquitoes.
The commune of Libourne, near Bordeaux, has made the service available online.
Using a barometer with green, orange and red levels, it tells locals in real-time the levels of mosquitoes in the area.
It works by using “anti-mosquito terminals that allow remote monitoring of the evolution of mosquito populations”.
The aim is to encourage residents to take the right measures and avoid the spread of mosquitoes. For example, by regularly emptying areas where water can stagnate or not planting reeds, where mosquitoes can nest.
Every summer, 80% of the complaints Philippe Buisson, mayor of Libourne, receives relate to tiger mosquitoes. The mosquito is particularly widespread in the Gironde and can spread serious diseases such as Zika, dengue fever and chikungunya.
The commune has already spent “several hundreds of thousands of euros”, said Mr Buisson, and yet “people continue to yell at me about it”. However, the local authorities can only do so much. Unlike other mosquito species, which can travel up to 20km, tiger mosquitoes live, reproduce, feed and die within a 150m radius from the stagnant water they hatched in.
So, as Mr Buisson says, “if you are suffering from mosquitoes, it is because you or your neighbour are not taking the right measures”.
He added: “Action must be taken not when the mosquito is born, [but] when the larva is growing. We will be able to tell residents: ‘Watch out, if you do nothing [then] in a week there will be a mosquito infestation’. Therefore you should act now to [empty] small cups of water in your gardens or plant water collectors.”
“If it rains, the mosquitoes will lay [eggs] in water reserves and the larvae will hatch two days later. Mosquitoes will be there within a week. So, it is necessary to act within the next three days,” said Mr Buisson.
How can I stop tiger mosquitoes from spreading?
France’s health ministry has said: “Prevention of bites and fighting the spread of mosquitoes is essential to limit epidemics.”
The main way to stop them from spreading is to remove any containers or areas of stagnant water in your garden or outside space, as this is where the mosquitoes lay their eggs.
You are advised to empty:
Plastic outdoor containers
Flower pot stands
Tools and other gardening items after rain (or store them away beforehand)
Any other areas of standing water.
It is also recommended that you report any sightings or bites to Signalement-moustique.anses.fr, the specialist government health department (Anses) website. The page also includes more information about the insect and how to prevent its spread.
How can I avoid tiger mosquitoes?
Research shows that between 70-80% of mosquito bites happen at night, although tiger mosquitoes are most likely to bite in the early mornings and late evenings.
If you have followed the advice to stop them from spreading, you can also help to protect yourself by:
Use anti-mosquito products that include Deet, IR 3535, KBR 3023, or citriodiol
Wear covering and light-coloured clothing where possible
Avoid sitting outside for too long when mosquitoes are present
Use a net when sleeping if preferred
Some traps are available, offering varying degrees of success, and scientists are always researching new ways to trap them. Recent innovations include a ‘breathing device; that imitates human breathing to trap female mosquitoes, while another larvicide product has been successfully tested in the Camargue.
However, these devices can sometimes damage the environment, as they can kill other insects as well as tiger mosquitoes.