Rain adds buzz to research job
By Jamie Brown
GRAHAM PLUMB may have had enough of recent rain, but his pet mosquitos are in their element.
Part of his job as Ballina Shire Council’s environmental health manager is to collect mosquitos for Westmead Hospital’s medical entomology unit in Sydney, where the little Ballina buggers are tested to see if they carry a virus.
The insects are in thick supply, but for the moment they are disease-free.
The last batch retrieved in a single trap along North Creek Road on Tuesday night yielded 1200 mosquitoes, but last week’s batch netted twice that amount.
Of this week’s collection about 200 were a salt marsh variety, which have the potential to carry Ross River Disease or Barmah Forest Virus.
“We have the greatest variety of mosquitos in NSW because here we overlap subtropical and temperate species,” noted Graham, who has been collecting mossies for Westmead since 1991.
The ingenious traps use carbon dioxide as bait, to simulate our breath, combined with a dim light to entrance them and a small electric fan to suck them into a jar.
Westmead entomologist Stephen Doggett said many species are poor carriers of disease, especially the common house brown mosquito and the wee little black ones you see in your backyard.
But the black and white banded salt marsh mosquito is particularly capable of transmitting the disease from wallabies and kangaroos to humans. The older the mossie, the more likely it is to carry the disease and humid weather helps them live longer.
So take care around mosquitos by avoiding dusk and dawn, wear light coloured clothes, long sleeves and use a good repellent.