Have bromeliads? Here’s how to stop them from becoming mosquito breeding grounds

WWSB ABC7 News at 6pm
Published: Jul. 21, 2023 at 4:40 PM EDT
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Here in the Suncoast, bromeliads are a colorful addition to many landscapes. Their bright colors make them a favorite of residents and city landscapers.

While the rainy season makes grass and leaves green, it also ushers in mosquito breeding season. This season has already made history. Sarasota County has been placed under a malaria advisory after seven confirmed cases. It’s the first documented cases in two decades.

It’s important to note that the carrier of malaria, the Anopheles mosquito, does not use bromeliads as a place to breed. But Florida has 90 different varieties of mosquitoes and all of them could potentially carry other illnesses.

ABC7 spoke with Dr. Eva Buckner, an assistant professor at the University of Florida and Extension specialist. Buckner previously worked in Manatee County in mosquito control.

Bromeliads have a perfect center that provides a hidden and damp place to lay eggs.

“One thing about commercially available bromeliads is that they have what’s known as a center tank. And so, they have these leaves that form this center tank. When there are sprinklers and rainfall can accumulate in that central tank, and also where the leaves will meet the tank there also can form other little pools, there are mosquitoes that can take advantage of this,” explained Buckner.

Those mosquitoes take advantage by laying eggs inside those center tanks. It’s one of many ways mosquitoes will try to protect their young. Other varieties of the insect, Buckner explained, can also live among water vegetation, like water lettuce, and breathe through the stems of the plant. It provides a lot of challenges for mosquito control.

As for bromeliad enthusiasts, if you don’t want to rid yourself of the plant, Dr. Buckner has a few suggestions.

“I know there are quite a few bromeliad enthusiasts around…if you can’t part with your bromeliads there are certainly ways to keep them in your yard but reduce the number of mosquitoes that they produce. My recommendations for that are to either, once a week use a very forceful stream from the water hose directly aimed at the central tank to flush out the eggs. Additionally you can buy larvicide that are made to kill the immature or larval mosquitoes,” said Buckner.

The larvicides can be found in small pellets at gardening stores and will not harm the plants.

As for personal protection as you work in your yards, Dr. Buckner recommends covering up, wearing light colored clothing and using repellant with EPA and CDC approved ingredients to keep you safe.

Sarasota County Mosquito Control has been spraying in multiple parts of the county. You can look at their treatment schedule and suggested preventative measures here.

To learn more about mosquitoes and bromeliads, click here.