Mosquitoes in Kenya, Explained
Mosquitoes are small flying insects belonging to the family Culicidae. They are well-known for their role in transmitting diseases to humans and animals. Female mosquitoes feed on the blood of vertebrates, including humans, to obtain the necessary nutrients for egg development. Male mosquitoes primarily feed on nectar and plant juices.
Mosquitoes have a slender body, long legs, and narrow wings. They are equipped with specialized mouthparts called proboscis, which they use to pierce the skin of their host and extract blood. While feeding, mosquitoes can transmit various pathogens, including viruses, bacteria, and parasites, which can cause diseases like malaria, dengue fever, Zika virus, West Nile virus, and more.
For decades, mosquitoes have been a problem for many Kenyans. From Western Kenya to Mombasa, you will find mosquitoes, no matter the season. Although the government has tried many mitigation measures against mosquitoes, these pests continue to pose threats to Kenyans. Mosquitoes transmit Malaria. There are an estimated 3.5 million new clinical cases and 10,700 deaths each year, and those living in western Kenya have an especially high risk of malaria. That’s why you must know about how to control mosquitoes.
Why are there so many mosquitoes in Nairobi and surrounding areas?
Mosquitos thrive in tropical areas. The warm humid conditions of the tropics provide a perfect environment for the breeding of mosquitoes. Kenya, being a tropical country, is a hotspot of mosquitoes. Here, mosquitoes don’t hibernate. They survive, are active, and breed all year round. Apart from the climate and weather, another reason why there are so many mosquitoes in Nairobi is urbanization. Urban areas often have more sources of standing water, such as storm drains, gutters, and construction sites. These can provide ideal breeding habitats for mosquitoes. Another reason is the lack of Natural predators. Mosquitoes have natural predators, such as birds, bats, and dragonflies, that help control their population. If these predators are scarce in an area, mosquito numbers can increase. There are few natural predators of mosquitoes in Nairobi. Another reason is poor drainage and the availability of standing water. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. If there are areas of stagnant water in an area, such as puddles, ponds, or containers that collect rainwater, these can serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
What threats do mosquitoes pose to our health and safety?
Mosquitoes pose significant threats to human health and safety due to their role as vectors (carriers) of various infectious diseases. Some of the most notable diseases transmitted by mosquitoes include:
- Malaria: Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by Plasmodium parasites and transmitted through the bite of infected Anopheles mosquitoes. It is a major global health concern, particularly in regions with high mosquito populations. Symptoms include fever, chills, headache, and flu-like symptoms. Without prompt and effective treatment, malaria can lead to severe illness and death.
- Dengue Fever: Dengue fever is caused by the dengue virus and is transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, primarily Aedes aegypti. It can cause a range of symptoms, including high fever, severe headache, joint and muscle pain, and rash. In severe cases, dengue can progress to dengue hemorrhagic fever or dengue shock syndrome, which can be life-threatening.
- Zika Virus: Zika virus is also transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes. While many Zika infections are mild or asymptomatic, the virus is a serious concern for pregnant women due to its association with birth defects, particularly microcephaly, which can result in developmental issues for the baby.
- Yellow Fever: Yellow fever is a viral disease transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, particularly Aedes aegypti. It can cause a wide range of symptoms, from mild fever and headache to severe jaundice and bleeding. In severe cases, yellow fever can be fatal.
- West Nile Virus: West Nile virus is transmitted by Culex mosquitoes. Most infections are asymptomatic, but some individuals may experience flu-like symptoms. In severe cases, it can lead to neurological complications and, in rare instances, death.
- Chikungunya: Chikungunya virus is transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes. It causes symptoms such as fever, joint pain, headache, and rash. While most cases are not fatal, joint pain can persist for months or years, affecting the quality of life.
- Lymphatic Filariasis: Transmitted by various mosquito species, this parasitic infection can lead to the painful and disfiguring swelling of limbs and other body parts.
What kind of mosquito repellents work?
There are many types and brands of mosquito repellents sold in Kenya. From online stores like Jumia and Kilimall to physical stores like Skylab Cropcare, you will find all manner of mosquito repellents. You will also find online suggestions for natural repellents like garlic, peppermint, citronella, basil, lavender, etc.
It is recommended that you use PCPB-registered biopesticides. Examples include PYMOS 0.6 EC (Insecticide for public health use to control mosquitoes), PYLARVEX 0.5 EC (Insecticide/larvicide for the control of mosquito larvae in public health), PYREBEX 0.3% Aerosol (Public health insecticide for control of mosquitoes), FLOWER KILLER STICKS (Insecticidal sticks for the control of mosquitoes in domestic dwellings), and other PCPB registered products.
How do you keep mosquitoes away from your property?
Keeping mosquitoes away from your property involves a combination of preventive measures and mosquito control strategies. Here are some effective steps you can take:
- Eliminate Standing Water: Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water, so reducing or eliminating water sources can greatly reduce mosquito breeding. Regularly check your property for areas of stagnant water, and take action to prevent accumulation:
- Empty containers that can collect water, such as buckets, pots, and toys.
- Clean and properly maintain birdbaths and pet water bowls.
- Keep gutters and downspouts clear to prevent water buildup.
- Repair leaks in outdoor faucets and hoses.
- Cover or treat swimming pools, ponds, and rain barrels to prevent mosquito breeding.
- Maintain Landscaping: Mosquitoes rest in vegetation during the day, so trimming and maintaining your landscaping can reduce their hiding spots. Consider these steps:
- Trim tall grass, bushes, and shrubs.
- Remove overgrown vegetation where mosquitoes may rest.
- Keep lawns well-mowed and free of debris.
- Use Mosquito Repellents: Apply insect repellents to exposed skin and clothing when spending time outdoors. Look for repellents containing DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus for effective protection.
- Install Screens: Use window and door screens to prevent mosquitoes from entering your home. Make sure screens are in good condition and free of holes.
- Wear Protective Clothing: When spending time outdoors, wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, socks, and closed-toe shoes to minimize exposed skin.
- Use Fans: Running fans on outdoor patios and sitting areas can help create airflow that makes it difficult for mosquitoes to fly and land.
- Plant Mosquito-Repelling Plants: Some plants, such as citronella, lavender, and rosemary, have natural mosquito-repelling properties. Planting these around your property can help deter mosquitoes.
- Use Outdoor Mosquito Traps: There are various mosquito traps available that use attractants to capture and kill mosquitoes. These traps can be effective in reducing mosquito populations in your yard.
- Consider Mosquito Nets: If you have outdoor seating or sleeping areas, consider using mosquito nets to create a barrier between you and the mosquitoes.
- Time Outdoor Activities: Mosquitoes are most active during dawn and dusk. Whenever possible, schedule outdoor activities during other times of the day to reduce exposure to mosquitoes.
- Professional Mosquito Control: In areas with persistent mosquito problems, you may consider hiring a professional pest control service to apply targeted insecticides to reduce mosquito populations.
Remember that mosquito control is an ongoing effort, especially in tropical countries like Kenya. By implementing these measures, you can create a more comfortable and mosquito-free environment on your property.