Improving urban mosquito management through passive education and intervention in Washington, D.C
Human-mosquito dynamics are an important model for developing new socio-ecological theory for human-pest interactions. Understanding human-mosquito dynamics also are important for engaging community participation in the broader goals of improving urban quality of life and neighborhood revitalization. This study tested the effectiveness of printed education materials at reducing pestiferous and vector mosquito populations through improved resident-based management practices. Consistent with common mosquito print education, materials tested in this study were designed to improve resident knowledge of mosquitoes and attitudes towards mosquito management by promoting the removal of water-filled containers. Containers are commonly utilized by the developmental stages (eggs and larvae) of important vector mosquito species, Aedes albopictus and Culex pipiens in the northeastern United States. Households in six neighborhoods in the Washington DC area that varied in socioeconomic status were administered knowledge, attitude, and practice (KAP) questionnaires in 2010 and 2012, and had their yards surveyed for container habitats and mosquitoes in 2010, 2011, and 2012. Half of the households received education materials in 2011 and 2012.
Households that received education materials had a greater likelihood of reducing containers in 2012 than control households, particularly when they had high numbers of baseline (2010) containers. Unexpectedly, households that received education materials also had a greater decrease in concern for mosquito-borne illnesses. Moreover, abundances of A. albopictus and C. pipiens did not differ between households that received education versus control households. From 2010 to 2012, the proportion of total mosquitoes that were A. albopictus increased from 54.6% to 68.4% whereas the proportion of C. pipiens decreased from 35.6% to 17.1% This result was likely due to decreased numbers of containers that were a part house and yard structures (e.g., gutters, ponds), which C. pipiens mainly utilized, compared to other container types (e.g., trash, garden buckets), which were utilized by A. albopictus in large numbers. These findings suggest that printed education materials may have limited effectiveness at educating households to help manage mosquito production, especially A. albopictus, which is the dominant pest in the eastern United States. We recommend that mosquito control agencies carefully consider and test the effectiveness of any print education materials before their distribution, and also consider active education that may be more effective.