Mosquito management

There are approximately 100 species of mosquitoes in Western Australia (WA), a number of which are serious pests and/or disease vectors. Effective mosquito management can help to minimise the public health risk and impact on amenity associated with mosquitoes.

Mosquito management is only necessary if people and mosquitoes come into contact, either in residential or recreational areas that are within the dispersal range of mosquito breeding habitats. The overall aim of mosquito management is to reduce pest or vector mosquitoes to a level where the impact on the adjacent human population is kept to an acceptable level.

Effective mosquito management aims to:

  • employ an integrated approach, combining various management strategies (chemical, physical, cultural and biological)
  • minimise the interaction between mosquitoes and the public
  • minimise the risk of mosquito-borne disease transmission
  • remain environmentally and economically sustainable.
Establishing a mosquito management program
A mosquito management program encapsulates all activities related to the management of mosquitoes. The need to establish a program of this nature is often driven by public complaints or notified cases of mosquito-borne disease acquired within the jurisdiction. 

An effective program is guided by the development and implementation of a formal mosquito management plan (MMP). Note, the terms 'program' and 'plan' are often used interchangeably, although there is a subtle difference. 

When establishing a mosquito management program, it is important to: 
  • obtain existing information related to the mosquito management (eg. previous surveys, public complaints, disease reports, breeding site maps, land ownership etc)
  • undertake baseline adult and larval mosquito surveys 
  • analyse data to determine the need for mosquito management
  • identify appropriate mosquito management strategies
  • determine budget/resources to implement the program
  • identify land owners (if relevant)
  • obtain permits/approvals to undertake management activities
  • evaluate the ongoing efficacy of the program.

This information should be documented in a MMP, providing a structured and organised approach to an integrated mosquito management program. 

Developing a mosquito management plan

A mosquito management plan (MMP) is an overarching document that describes all aspects of a management program, including the program's objectives, nuisance/disease risks, mosquito breeding sites, management strategies, land owners, necessary permits/approvals, budget and resource requirements etc.

The development of a MMP is recommended for any local government that experiences recurring issues with mosquitoes. It may also be a requirement for developers, depending on the proposed site and its proximity to natural mosquito breeding sites. Whilst it may take some initial effort to develop, having a MMP in place can help to: 

  • document a structured, integrated approach to mosquito management 
  • guide the day-to-day activities related to mosquito management
  • ensure corporate knowledge/expertise is retained 
  • gain internal support, resourcing and budget to implement the program
  • promote a better understanding, among residents, of the challenges faced by local government.  

The development of a MMP is a mandatory requirement for those local governments wishing to form a Contiguous Local Authorities Group (CLAG), in order to access financial assistance from the Department of Health towards mosquito management.

A template has been prepared to assist local government in developing their own MMP. Both Parts A and B should be used together. Part A provides a brief summary of the information to be provided under each heading, while Part B provides detailed case examples for each section. These documents are intended to be used as a guide only and should be tailored to meet each individual local government's requirements.

Understanding mosquito habitats

Different mosquito species have different breeding habitat requirements. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in or near a water source, which can be either fresh, brackish or saline, depending on the species. They prefer standing water in both natural and/or man-made water bodies.

Natural habitats include:
  • salt marsh 
  • lakes 
  • swamps
  • ground pools
  • irrigation ditches
  • tree holes
  • leaf axils (crevice formed between stem of plant and leaf).

In urban environments, particularly backyards, mosquitoes breed in range of water-holding containers. The removal or maintenance of these sites can significantly reduce mosquito numbers. Common examples include:

  • pot plant drip trays
  • septic and water tanks
  • roof gutters
  • ponds
  • disused containers
  • poorly maintained swimming pools
  • dog water bowls
  • disused car tyres.
Mosquito management strategies

Mosquito management strategies will vary depending on the situation, nature and extent of the mosquito problem, environmental constraints and available resources. 

Key strategies include: 

  • physical (eg. source reduction by filling, draining or removing breeding sites)
  • biological (eg. introduction of aquatic predators to reduce mosquito larvae)
  • chemical (eg. application of insecticides, including adulticides or larvicides)
  • cultural (eg. land use planning considerations, promoting community awareness and encouraging the general public to adopt practices to avoid mosquito bites).
It is important to integrate a variety of management strategies into your program. Avoiding the reliance on a single strategy will help to prevent many of the problems inherent with long-term control, such as the development of chemical resistance.
Environmental considerations

Mosquitoes play an important role in the ecosystem. It is always important to minimise the impact on the environment when considering the need for mosquito management and choosing the most appropriate management strategy.

Many wetlands have an official conservation status, at either a local, national or international level. Always check whether approval is required before you undertake mosquito management. Advice should be sought from the WA Environmental Protection Agency (external).

If chemical control is deemed necessary, larvicides are preferred over adulticides as they are more target specific and have minimal impact on the environment when applied at the label rate. Adulticides used in fogging activities will kill other flying insects (eg. bees, dragon flies etc) and can also be lethal to fish. For these reasons, fogging is only recommended when there is an imminent public health risk associated with mosquito-borne disease transmission. Fogging activities should be planned appropriately to ensure wind conditions are optimal and the product will not drift over wetlands or water bodies where fish may be present. See chemical control for more information.

Land use planning considerations

Some mosquito species can disperse many kilometres from breeding sites. Research undertaken in the South West of WA (external) highlighted the importance of imposing appropriate buffers between wetlands and residential/recreational land use to reduce the risk of mosquito-borne disease transmission. Planning authorities in state and local governments should consider the implications of mosquito-borne disease risks when assessing residential development applications. 

Man-made water bodies must be designed and managed to discourage mosquito breeding. This should include reduced emergent vegetation, hard edges and water movement. The Chironomid midge and mosquito risk assessment guide for constructed water bodies (PDF 877KB) is a useful resource for this purpose.

More information

  • Medical Entomology
Phone: (08) 9285 5500

The removal or maintenance of these sites can permanently reduce mosquito numbers in backyard situations.
Last reviewed: 21-01-2020
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