Could Your Bromeliads Be Harbouring the Zika Mosquito?

1-10-17-bromeliadsWorkshop participants on Tuesday evening learned that popular house plants in the Bromeliad family could be a breeding ground for the mosquito which carries the Zika virus.

There are about 3475 species of Bromeliads known, one of which is the pineapple. Many homes use them as both indoor and outdoor plants because of their multi-coloured hues, overlapping leaves and ability to retain water. It is this retention of water that can be a breeding place for the eggs of the Aedes Egypti mosquito. This mosquito is known to carry the Zika and Chikungunya Viruses and Dengue.

Sally Edwards, Environmental Health Advisor for the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) shared this information at the workshop hosted by the Ministry of Health at the Credit Union Hall. Also on the team are Dr. Godfrey Xuereb, PAHO/WHO Representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean and Dr. Peter Crowley, Advisor, Health Systems and Services.

Attendees included nurses from primary and secondary health care, ministers of the gospel and representatives from churches and other community groups. Permanent Secretary of Health Elijah Silcott said the goal was to share the information with a core group who can then disseminate within their organisations and communities.

The PAHO Advisor in her presentation shared a checklist of places where stagnant water can allow mosquitoes to breed. They include the dish draining board, seldom used toilets and showers, vases, empty pools and ponds, barbecue covers, septic tanks and roof gutters.

“Anywhere the water doesn’t move is a problem,” Edwards explained. She cleared up a fallacy that the mosquito only liked to breed in clean water. “Mosquitoes are quite happy breeding in septic water.”

She suggested that barrels of water which are popular around Caribbean homes should be placed on blocks, a hole drilled then attach a tap. The top must be covered with a mesh tightly and not sagging into the water. Barrels used for garbage should have holes in the bottom to allow any rain water to run out.

“Every citizen of Montserrat is responsible to assist with the elimination of this mosquito. Every citizen in Montserrat contribute to the mosquitoes staying alive,” said Dr. Xuereb.

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1 Response

  1. DiscoverMNITeam says:

    This bromeliad warning also appeared in Florida, and it’s accurate although I think it’s mostly an attention-grabber; but…in my experience on Montserrat, bromeliads aren’t used that much for ornamental plantings. I don’t get into a lot of folks’ gardens, but my observations are that they are not grown to the extent that they may be in Florida or say, Jamaica, where they might be bedded out en masses in displays at hotels or theme parks. I’m just an occasional visitor to Montserrat with a house in Old Towne, but I’m a professional horticulturist so I pay attention to plants.

    First, the bromeliads belong to a plant family, the Bromeliad Family; just a way of grouping closely related plants. They are found only in the “New World.”
    There are two types of bromeliads: terrestrial and epiphytic. Terrestrials grow in the ground with normal roots, and they don’t capture water in a cup formed by the leaves like the epiphytes do. Terrestrials include pineapple and a native red flowered bromeliad that occurs naturally on Montserrat, eg on the cliffs at Woodlands. So no problem with those and mosquitoes.

    The epiphytes live attached to trees branches, or wires, and get their water from rainfall. They don’t harm the plant they live on, it’s just a place to anchor. The epiphytes include the familiar Spanish “Moss” in Florida, and the little silver gray “Ball Moss” on Montserrat that you sometimes see on utility wires; I have one growing in a bougainvillea at the house. This type also doesn’t make the cup to catch water, they just absorb it directly through their little pendulous leaves. So again no issue with mosquitoes.

    Most of the epiphytes are vase-shaped, the leaves forming sort of a cup to capture water and the occasional rotting leaf or tree frog dropping for nutrition.
    There are native cup- type epiphytic bromeliads that are common on Montserrat, easily seen in tall trees near Runaway Ghaut for example, or near the top of the road that goes to the Duberry-Cassava Trailhead; even on the cacti in the Silver Hills.
    These could harbor mosquito larvae, because as your article points out, mosquitoes don’t need a whole lot of water to breed, and bromeliads may have water in their vases for months at a time.

    That said, I think the risk is minimal compared to gutters, old refrigerators, stagnant swimming pools, saucers under flower pots, discarded bottles and cans and other places where water collects close to homes.
    A notorious harborer of mosquito larvae is old tires, such as those at the drag race track in Foxes Bay. Old tires were the means by which the Asian Tiger Mosquito entered the United States.
    There is risk anywhere that water collects, but these plants are part of nature and a characteristic plant of the island.

    Larry Hurley

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