As Texas comes to terms with the damage and devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, there are several issues beyond clean-up and repair that likely have not crossed the minds of residents. The massive influx of water has caused and continues to cause countless issues in itself, and the health hazards of this are immense. Pest issues may not be at the forefront of the relief efforts down south, but they will most definitely be a cause for concern for the months ahead for both residents and pest management professionals.
Unfortunately, due to the stagnant water in many areas of the state, mosquitoes will thrive and rodents will make homes in piles of debris and abandoned buildings. Similar activity was witnessed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and as a result, studies have been done to track pests in these conditions. These studies have led to some unconventional yet successful methods in handling certain pest infestations.
For example, post-Katrina New Orleans had to deal with more than 5,000 contaminated pools that turned into ideal breeding grounds for mosquitos, putting residents at risk for the transmission of the West Nile Virus. To combat the growing mosquito larvae population, the western mosquito fish was enlisted, and put into at least 900 pools in the area. Also known as Gambusia affinis, it can eat up to 100 larvae a day. This method was also used to control the mosquitoes that inundated Sri Lanka as a result of a tsunami in 2004.
The abundance of debris and abandoned buildings in the wake of these natural disasters has also led to new discoveries in the habits of rodents. Pest management professionals are able to better treat in these circumstances thanks to this data. For example, a group of researchers post-Katrina found the highest concentration of rats in abandoned yet well-kept buildings, not those with overgrown lawns and shrubbery, contrary to popular belief.
The impacts of the wrath of Mother Nature are devastating, but we continue to discover new methods of dealing with these issues to aid us in future situations, especially in the pest world.
“How Harvey is Hitting PMPs” by Heather Gooch, PMP Magazine
“New Orleans Enlists Fish to Fight Mosquitoes in Swimming Pools” by Craig Guillot, National Geographic News
“Where do rats move in after disasters? This team finds out” by Rob Margetta, National Science Foundation