by Gracey Griffin November 03, 2020 2 min read
Mosquitos are not only a nuisance, but they can also spread disease throughout the population, especially in warmer climates. Several life-threatening human diseases are transmitted throughout Australia and New Zealand by mosquitos every year including Dengue fever, Australian encephalitis, Ross River virus disease, Barmah Forest virus disease, Zika virus and occasionally Malaria.
Dunedin’s Tussock Innovation is helping councils protect Australian communities from the spread of mosquito-transmitted diseases using state of the art, Waterwatch monitoring technology.
Mosquitoes are considered a “floodwater” species meaning that they breed in temporary water pools, not permanent habitats. With subtropical rainfall and king tides hitting coastal Australia frequently, low lying marshlands are prone to flooding, and retaining water in puddles or pools provides the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. The warm, shallow pools become quickly littered with mosquito larvae.
The typical female mosquito will lay upwards of 100 eggs at a time, which will reach full maturity in 8-10 days. This gives the local authorities roughly a week from when pooling establishes until the problem has to be dealt with. In Queensland alone, managing mosquito populations involves spraying more than 2,500 known mosquito breeding sites on public land. These sites are regularly monitored on quad bikes, trucks, helicopters and by foot. In a typical season, the council will treat 20,000 hectares of coastal salt marsh by helicopter.
Several city councils across Australia, from Redland City to the Sunshine Coast and Mandurah in Western Australia, have installed Waterwatch sensors to monitor these areas and alert authorities when pooling is established, and at what depth. They can only treat the areas when the right amount of water is retained. Too little water and the pools won’t have live eggs/ larvae, but too much water and the treatment chemicals will be diluted and ineffective.
The team coordinator of the pest management division of Redland City Council said the Waterwatch solution helps to organise resources so the right people are in the right place at the right time. The LS1 sensors provide data so the team can anticipate surprise tides that are often misjudged by local forecasts. Viewing data in both the office and out in the field means their team is all on the same page and can make smart decisions about how to act. He said maintenance on the device is minimal to nil which is great because the sensors are installed in remote areas.
Ariel treatment of mosquito breeding grounds costs between $5,000 - $10,000 depending on the size of the site. The Waterwatch dashboard allows users to pull data for audits and justification of why they have or have not treated each site. They can also record data for research and developments in both mosquito management and mosquito-borne disease control. Another significant impact this solution has is the environmental footprint of mosquito disease control, reducing helicopter and quad bike movements through to using less pesticide spray.
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