Springtime in the Big Country is fast approaching and that means two nuisances are imminent – muddy puddles and mosquitoes.
As March and April showers soak the area, an army of pain-inflicting pests set up camp on the Hill. The next two months will be a constant battle as the mosquito air raid begins.
These tiny creatures are an undeniable hassle. The annoying buzzing subsequently leads to an apparent fight with the air as futile attempts to swat the “skeeters” commence. But mosquitoes are far more than a nuisance – they are a threat.
Cases of West Nile virus have been escalating in Texas in recent years. The U.S. Department of the Interior reported several confirmed cases of animals contracting West Nile in Taylor County in 2009. The disease also is increasingly spreading to humans. The Department of the Interior reported 27 confirmed cases in humans in Tarrant County, although no cases were confirmed in Taylor County.
Mosquitoes also present a serious threat to pets. The pests carry Dirofilaria immiti, otherwise known as heartworms, which infect an animal’s bloodstream and can be fatal, according to the American Mosquito Control Association.
Mosquitoes on campus must be dealt with. The easy solution would be to fix drainage, but who really thinks that’s going to happen? Pesticides are icky and probably worse for us than the mosquitoes – and bug repellants end up repelling the opposite sex instead of the mosquitoes.
The solution to the ACU mosquito epidemic is simple, environmentally friendly and attractive. The purple martin is a swallowlike bird that happens to find the mosquito absolutely scrumptious. However, these birds need a place to stay before they decide to call a place home.
Purple martins are totally dependent on humans to provide housing, according to the Purple Martin Conservation Association. These birds require large multifamily residences on high poles in large, open fields. These birds eat a diet of mostly bugs, according to the PMCA.
Misconceptions do exist about purple martins and their mosquito-eating habits. Some studies indicate the birds can eat 2,000 mosquitoes per day, but mosquitoes are not the preferred diet of purple martins. The PMCA said reports of purple martins as effective means of mosquito eradication are exaggerated.
However, the martins would at least reduce the plethora of mosquitoes on the ACU campus. I have a purple martin house in my yard and have never had problems with mosquitoes. I don’t even own a can of nasty spray repellant.
ACU should construct a series of martin houses around campus. These houses are inexpensive and attractive, and even if they fail to reduce mosquitoes, they would still add to campus. They do eat other bugs as well. The purple martin is an attractive bird, and purple birds on campus would even further campus spirit – they are purple, after all.
Martins aside, ACU has to do something about the standing water on campus and the subsequent breeding ground for mosquitoes it creates. Until the university addresses the issue of mosquitoes, be ready for a spring semester filled with the buzz of mosquitoes. Hopefully it won’t take a case of West Nile virus to prompt action.