Mosquito Lady in the Maldives

 

‘Mosquito Lady’ and local community combine to deter unwanted guests on Kuda Huraa

‘Mosquito Lady’ and local community combine to deter unwanted guests on Kuda Huraa thumbnail

Pest control consultant Trudy Rilling-Collins, better known as the ‘Mosquito Lady’ has been working closely with Four Seasons Kuda Huraa resort and the local community of neighbouring Boda Huraa to introduce sustainable and environmentally friendly mosquito control procedures.

As the South-West monsoon season reaches the Maldives, wetter weather will bring rain to replenish the water tanks that provide safe drinking water for the people of the islands. But it is not just the human population who will be glad to see the clouds rolling overhead.

The increased rainfall is also particularly appealing to the country’s mosquito population, which will take full advantage of any available water in which they can lay their eggs. Any stagnant body of water will be most appreciated by Aedes aegypti and her cousin Aedes albopictus, the mosquito species that carry the dengue virus which has been afflicting Maldivians in increasing numbers in recent years.

Aedes aegypti will utilise any water available in which to lay her eggs. She will live for only one month, but in that time her larvae will take full advantage of any accommodating bucket, well, puddle, blocked drain or water tank.

She will sustain herself during this period by feeding exclusively on human blood, unlike her cousin who will happily feed off any red-blooded creature.

Aedes aegypti is a particular fan of mid-market tourism, preferring to find accommodation in close proximity to the local community. Eager to ingratiate herself with her human food supply, she can visit up to five people per blood meal, potentially passing the dengue virus to all she acquaints herself with.

She will be able to lay four lots of eggs in her lifetime which is more than long enough to see her young grow into fully grown biting adults, a process that takes only one week.

Fully booked

One place where Aedes aegypti and her kin will not receive a hospitable welcome this year, however, is on the resort island of Kuda Huraa in North Male’ Atoll and the inhabited island of Bodu Huraa next door.

The resort has this year enlisted the help of Trudy Rilling-Collins, otherwise known as ‘Mosquito Lady’, to ensure that its hospitality extends only to the human guests.

Trudy runs her own consultancy, specialising in environmentally responsible pest control, and has been working closely with Four Seasons Kuda Huraa and the Bodu Huraa community to ensure that there are no vacancies for dengue spreading visitors.

The resort on Kuda Huraa and the local community share a symbiotic relationship. The resort provides around 13 percent of the registered population in Bodu Huraa with jobs and has provided vital infrastructure to the local population.

The town’s sewerage system was provided by Four Seasons and the company has even assisted in providing fresh water to Bodu Huraa during the current dry season.

This close relationship is not lost on the mosquitos, who can easily travel the short distance between the islands, to feed happily from tourists and locals alike.

Trudy studied the biological control of insects and became disillusioned with the extensive use of harmful pesticides in what she sees as often futile attempts to control pests.

The use of pesticides in a diesel fuel carrier, referred to as fogging, is widely practised in the Maldives and throughout the tropical regions, although Four Seasons Kuda Huraa, which also pays for mosquito control in the two islands, has not fogged since Trudy’s arrival in April.

“The neurotoxins present in pesticides used for fogging on the islands have the same effects on humans that they have on the insects, it just takes far higher doses to affect humans,” said Trudy.

“Fogging kills only a small percentage of adults, five to ten percent if you’re lucky, and over time results in increased resistance,” she added.

Trudy believes that the key to mosquito control lies in making the area inhospitable to the pests: “80-90 percent of the problem can be sorted by eliminating standing water where mosquitoes breed.”

The effects of these chemicals are also harmful to the local environment, a particular concern for SEAMARC, a Maldivian an environmental consultancy that works closely with Four Seasons.

Alban Viaud, a marine biologist on Kuda Huraa, explained that the fogging chemicals which are quickly washed into the ocean are harmful to marine health: “Only a few parts per million can kill fish.”

Trudy has been working closely with the resort, the local council, schools and the community to implement a sustainable, effective and environmentally friendly way to keep mosquito numbers down.

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