Story and photos by Jay Cook
RED BANK – Wednesday marked the first official day of summer, and guess what that means?
It’s not just barbecues or trips down to the beach. It signals the unwanted homecoming of those pesky pests that haunt New Jerseyans night after night throughout the dog days of summer.
We’re talking about mosquitoes and ticks, two of the most scorned insects that will buzz and crawl through backyards for at least the next three to four months.
“We have to stay vigilant,” said Monmouth County Freeholder Serena DiMaso, liaison to the Monmouth County Mosquito Control Division, referring to protecting ourselves from insects during this time of the year.
Although overall mosquito pressure has not seen major growth over the past few years, concerns from mosquito-related diseases certainly have been on the rise.
DiMaso said that first and foremost, West Nile Virus is the main concern for the County during mosquito season. According to the most recent data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from Jan. 2017, there were 2,038 cases of West Nile Virus reported throughout 47 states and the District of Columbia last year.
There were 11 reported cases of West Nile Virus in New Jersey last year. Monmouth County had 1 case, and neighboring Middlesex County had two cases. Eight of the 11 reported cases in the state came between the first week in July and near the end of September, according to the CDC.
And while West Nile Virus isn’t going anywhere, it’s the mosquito disease from the Western Hemisphere – Zika Virus – that increasingly concerns Americans on the east coast.
In the Two River area, local businesses have made it their mission to halt mosquito growth one property at a time.
“A lot of our customers are families with young kids or families with nice backyards that want to enjoy their yards,” said Jason Julio of Last Bite Mosquito Control in Red Bank. His business partner is his twin brother, Jeremy.
After four seasons in business, Jason Julio explained how the company approaches the problem. “No one can ever promise you a 100 percent mosquito free yard,” Julio said, “but we offer a 90 percent reduction.”
At the price of $74.99 per treatment, or seasonal packages including five treatments, Last Bite will visit properties once every three weeks to administer service.
Using misters attached to backpack blowers, the company says it has found a way to significantly decrease the likelihood of bug bites and the inevitable itch from the nettlesome pests.
The company offers two different solutions. One consists of 99 percent water and one percent pyrethroid, and the other is an all-natural solution. The sprays are administered to the underside of vegetation and trees, prime areas where adult mosquitoes find safe haven.
“As the mist blows into the foliage, it blows up underneath to where the mosquitoes like to hide,” Jason Julio said. “We can get up high and into the treeline to create a nice barrier.”
Provided with that barrier is hope for nearly 21 days free of adult mosquitoes. By the time the solution wears off on the vegetation, a Last Bite crew returns to spray again.
While it is the adult mosquitoes causing the most trouble, even more of a concern are the mosquito larvae that fester and grow in some of the most unsuspecting places.
A typical family’s backyard may include toys, wheelbarrows, tools stuffed behind the shed, and a garden with empty flowering pots.
Julio said each of those three circumstances would constitute an area perfect for mosquito larvae growth, thanks to a bit of built-up water.
“Anywhere water can sit stagnant for a long period of time can be a potential breeding ground for mosquitoes,” he said.
Though mosquito services do dominate most of the Julio brothers’ business, the bug biting its way into the conversation for most troublesome this summer is the tick.
“I’m seeing a lot of ticks out in the fields and in the woods,” Jason Julio said, “but I think people are also more aware now because of the different diseases.”
This summer, there is concern about Powassan Virus, a deadly tick-borne disease that transmits from tick to host within 15 minutes, Julio said. Comparatively, it takes about 24 for a tick to transmit Lyme Disease.
Freeholder DiMaso said ticks with Lyme Disease are found in Monmouth County. Nearly 30 percent of all ticks tested by the Monmouth County Mosquito Control Division carry the disease, she said.
Referring to Powassan Virus, DiMaso said, “Our growing concern is that there are other tick-borne diseases that people are not paying attention to.”
Residents can reach out to the County for tick identification. Private companies have tick-reduction services as well. Last Bite charges $84.99 to spread bags of granular treatment, good for 60 days.
And regarding the fear of having pesticides sprayed on a property, Jason Julio did note all products are approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.
“There’s always a fine line you don’t want to cross concerning people and the pesticides you’re spraying,” he said. “We’re very cautious about that.”
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