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Killing mosquitoes tougher with new pesticide regulations

Researchers are thinking outside the box to kill pests that spread disease

St. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – Mosquitoes are flocking around Florida as temperatures soar and regular rainstorms keep their breeding ground fertile. But researchers are forced to work on new ways to combat the flying insects due to a flurry of new regulations on pesticides.

The pesky insects are known for spreading diseases, including deadly viruses, so several agencies are collaborating to create new methods to reduce the number of infectious mosquitoes.

Recently Zika - spread by mosquitoes - has been a virus of concern across the U.S. including Northeast Florida.  Diseases like dengue, West Nile virus, and yellow fever are also potential threats. 

The Anastasia Mosquito Control District in St. Johns County is testing new techniques that are safe and environmentally friendly.

"Some of our pesticides we've relied upon for the last 30 to 40 years are being regulated to the point where it's just not practical to use in many cases," said Joseph Conlon, technical advisor with the Mosquito Control Association.

One trial underway is the Sterile Insect Technique, in which sterile yellow-fever male mosquitoes are bred and released to mate with wild female mosquitoes. Their eggs won't hatch, which reduces the spread of mosquitoes infected with the disease.

Another, similar technique known as  ZAP uses Asian tiger mosquitoes that are bred with a bacteria that causes female mosquitoes to produce infertile eggs.

Mosquito control programs are using sterile male mosquitoes in their studies because male mosquitoes don't bite.

The test-mosquitoes were released in parts of St. Augustine and marked with a fluorescent dye.

Thousands of water-filled buckets were also distributed across the county to lure mosquitoes and trap them with sticky paper.

There are also ways you can help cut down on the pests by taking a few simple steps.

"Mosquitoes are going to be breeding in anything that holds water, like a trash can lid, plant saucers, pools, and buckets left out in the rain will always catch mosquitoes. If you have (old)  tires, they're hard to get water out of, so drill holes in them or recycle them appropriately," said Molly Clark, education specialist with Anastasia Mosquito Control District.

Every few weeks, mosquito control groups will return to the test sites and collect samples. If successful, the methods could be used across the country.