Florida Mosquito Control

There are approxiatmately 56 Mosquito Control Districts in Florida. Click the image to see a list of current Mosquito Control Districts in Florida.



The following is taken wholly from Chapter 2 (History of Florida Mosquito Control) in the Florida Mosquito Control White Paper developed by the Florida Coordinating Council on Mosquito Control. 1998. Florida Mosquito Control: The state of the mission as defined by mosquito controllers, regulators, and environmental managers. University of Florida; Vero Beach, FL, USA


Since the days of the early European explorers, writings show that mosquitoes have played a prominent role in Florida's history both as pest and disease problems. The Spanish, English, and French, all told tales of mosquitoes in such abundance that they were forced to sleep on the beach covered with sand. In the 1870s and 1880's, outbreaks of Yellow Fever (YF) in the Panhandle, Jacksonville, Key West, Tampa, Plant City and Manatee County took a tremendous toll in human suffering and death. These events led to the formation of the Florida State Board of Health in 1889. Dr. J.Y. Porter, an MD and a noted mosquito expert, was chosen as the first head of the Board.

The Florida Anti-Mosquito Association (FAMA) was formed in 1922 followed shortly by the legislature creating the first mosquito control district (Indian River - 1925). This occurred in conjunction with the formation of Indian River County (IRC). The St. Lucie Mosquito Control District was formed a year later (1926). Early permanent control efforts focused on hand ditching, some diking and dewatering, with some dredge and fill work proposed. The Work Project Administration (WPA) constructed 1500 miles of ditches in Florida's salt marshes by hand or with explosives. Perhaps the most significant mosquito control event in Florida was the creation of State funds through the efforts of Dr. John Mulrennan, Sr. in 1953. This legislatively established program was designated for permanent control work which included dredge & fill, ditching and impoundment and established the Entomological Research Center (now the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory (FMEL)) in Vero Beach.


Since the days of the early European explorers, mosquitoes have played a prominent role in Florida's history, both as pests and carriers of disease. Various Spanish, English, and French accounts tell of mosquito abundance sufficient to force early explorers to sleep on the beach and cover themselves with sand. In the 1870 and 1880, outbreaks of yellow fever (YF) in such widespread locations as Pensacola, Fernandina, Jacksonville, Key West, Tampa, Plant City, and Manatee County took a tremendous toll in human suffering and death. In Jacksonville, with a population of 26,800, the 1888 epidemic killed 400, sickened 5000, and caused 10,000 to flee the city. Of the 16,000 remaining in the city, 14,000 were left unemployed as a result of the breakdown of commerce.


These events, especially those in Jacksonville, led to the formation of the Florida State Board of Health (FSBH) in 1889. J.Y. Porter, a physician and noted YF expert from Key West, was chosen as the first head of the FSBH. The first efforts to prevent epidemics were fumigation of ships and quarantine of passengers. When the FSBH was created, the relationship between mosquitoes and YF was unknown. Not until 1898 was it determined that mosquitoes transmit malaria, and in 1900, the same association was made for YF. In Florida, the last case of YF occurred in 1910; dengue was last reported in 1932. In addition to one endemic case of malaria in 1990, several cases were reported in Palm Beach County in 1996.

Although not documented, the first organized mosquito control efforts were probably directed at Aedes aegypti. During WWI, drainage and larviciding efforts were directed toward malaria control in the area that is now the Jacksonville Naval Air Station. The first FSBH involvement was a malaria control project in the city of Perry in 1919. The costs were born by the city, Taylor County, and the Burton-Swartz Cypress Company. The project was so successful that the manager of Burton-Swartz stated that it was the best money that the company had ever spent.

In 1941, the Bureau of Malaria Control was formed within the FSBH and was used primarily to train malariologists to serve Florida and other malarious areas during WWII. In 1946, the Bureau of Malaria was abolished and the Division of Entomology was created within the Bureau of Sanitary Engineering, State Board of Health. In 1953, the Division of Entomology was upgraded to bureau status and state aid to county mosquito control programs was established and administered by the new bureau. In 1976, the Bureau of Entomology became the Office of Entomology in the newly created Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (FDHRS). In 1992 the office was transferred to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) as a bureau. Throughout all of these changes, the leadership of Dr. John A. Mulrennan, Sr., Dr. A.J. Rogers, Dr. John A. Mulrennan, Jr. (who retired in 1996), and Mr. Steven E. Dwinell has insured continuity.


The Florida Anti-Mosquito Association (FAMA), now known as the Florida Mosquito Control Association (FMCA), was formed in 1922, followed shortly by legislation allowing the creation of mosquito control Special Training Districts. The first district formed was Indian River in 1925. The St. Lucie and Martin Mosquito Control Districts (MCDs) were formed shortly thereafter, and by 1935, five districts had been created. Early control efforts focused on hand and dynamite ditching, diking, and dewatering. Some proposed dredge and fill work, which was never implemented.

During the Depression, the Work Project Administration (WPA) constructed 1,500 miles of ditches in Florida's salt marshes by hand or with explosives. Many of these ditches became a liability when the program ended and maintenance ceased. World War II brought a temporary end to all of Florida's organized mosquito control efforts. However, the State, through the Bureau of Malaria Control, helped to train malaria control workers for the armed forces. Mosquito Control in War Areas (MCWA) was established in Tallahassee and throughout malarious areas of Florida and the United States.

At the end of WWII, DDT became available and was the material of choice for mosquito control. Almost all existing mosquito control districts embarked upon a program of aerial and ground use of DDT for both adult and larval control. A number of new programs were formed to take advantage of this new insecticide. Beginning in 1949, the State provided funds (known as State I funds on a dollar-for-dollar annual matching basis for the first $15,000 of the local budget) for the purchase of chemicals and supplies. Results with DDT were amazingly good, and there was widespread belief that DDT had answered Florida's mosquito control problems. This euphoria lasted only a few short years, long enough for resistance to develop to DDT and many of the other chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticides.

Early scientists and administrators, among them Drs. Maurice W. Provost and John A. Mulrennan, Sr., recognized that chemical control alone was doomed to failure, for many reasons. Dr. Mulrennan, Sr., approached the legislature and in 1953 obtained additional funding (State II funds) to encourage permanent control (source reduction) with a money-matching program in which the state would provide $75 for each $100 in a district's local budget. State II funds were instrumental in eliminating thousands of acres of salt marsh breeding sites and prompted the creation of many new mosquito control programs. In addition, Dr. Mulrennan, Sr., obtained funds to build and staff a mosquito research laboratory subsequently constructed in Vero Beach and headed by Dr. Provost. State II funds were dropped in 1993.


Several research facilities in Florida have been instrumental in the scientific guidance of mosquito control programs in Florida and the remainder of the world. The first was a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) field laboratory established at New Smyrna (Volusia County) in early 1930. The lab emphasized the study of salt marsh mosquito biology and the control of these mosquitoes by ditching.

In 1942, the USDA's Insects Affecting Man and Animals established a laboratory in Orlando with the responsibility of developing measures for control of and protection from insects of medical importance to the armed forces. During WWII and the Korean War, this laboratory furnished valuable information on the control of medically important insects, including mosquitoes. This laboratory was the first to adapt DDT to medical entomology. Many of the methods that are used today for mosquito control, such as the ultra low volume (ULV) adulticiding techniques and the development of the repellent DEET, came from this USDA lab. In 1963, the laboratory was moved to Gainesville and in 1993 was renamed the Medical and Veterinary Entomology Research Laboratory (MVERL). In 1996, it became the Center for Medical, Agricultural, and Veterinary Entomology (CMAVE).

In 1947, Dr. Mulrennan, Sr., Chief of the Bureau of Malaria Control, State Board of Health, took the first step by the State of Florida toward research on the biology and control of mosquitoes by hiring Dr. Maurice W. Provost to organize such a program. This research effort was centered in Orlando and consisted entirely of field investigations into various problems in the Florida Keys, Lakeland, Leesburg, Ft. Pierce, New Smyrna Beach, and Panama City. The most significant of these studies was conducted on Sanibel Island, where the salt marsh and its role in mosquito production was investigated for several years. For seven years (1947-1954), this work was conducted without laboratory facilities. However, this deficiency was remedied in 1954.

The state established in 1954 at Vero Beach the Entomological Research Center (ERC), which is now called the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory (FMEL). The ERC was created to study mosquito control problems with emphasis on mosquito biology and related subjects. All aspects of mosquito biology were studied and included such work as flight behavior, larval development, and salt-marsh management. Now under the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), FMEL is still operating in Vero Beach with many new facilities and programs designed to provide answers for and disseminate information to mosquito control districts and the public.

In 1955, a Control Research Section was added to the ERC to study chemical and physical control problems. This section, headed by Dr. A.J. Rogers, was moved in 1964 to Panama City and named the West Florida Arthropod Research Lab as part of FSBH. The name was changed to the John A. Mulrennan, Sr. Arthropod Research Laboratory (JAMSARL) in 1986. Today this laboratory, administered by the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU), conducts research on adulticiding, larviciding, mosquito resistance, non-target effects, and biological control and provides other useful information on mosquitoes and other arthropods of medical importance (e.g., dog flies, yellow flies, ticks).

In 1963, the Encephalitis Research Center (ERC) was established in Tampa to study the epidemiology of arboviruses. The second ERC has been renamed twice, first to the Epidemiological Research Center and finally, in 1991, to the Tampa Branch Laboratory, FDHRS. By the time of the last name change, the laboratory's mission had evolved to emphasize the diagnosis of more common infectious diseases that are not mosquito-borne. The laboratory still performs diagnostic serology for encephalitis viruses on submitted sera from sentinel chickens, now a minor function of the lab.

In addition to the work of the formal governmental laboratories, a great deal of research is done by mosquito control programs. Most projects are on a cooperative basis with the above-mentioned laboratories and include such subjects as water management, chemical formulations, dispersal equipment, and surveillance. Some MCD programs have developed ideas of their own which have been quickly adopted by their colleagues, such as ULV application devices and formulas for more efficient insecticide dispersal. Cooperation and the sharing of ideas among mosquito control districts are a hallmark of the mosquito control profession, and many new advances result from these efforts.

Private organizations also have studied mosquito control activities. Chief among these are the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution in St. Lucie County, the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota County, and the Florida Institute of Technology in Brevard County. They have done research on topics such as insecticidal effects on non-target organisms and ecosystem effects of salt marsh management practices (see Chapter 11 for more details).


In 1984, under the leadership of the late Glennon Dodd, former Assistant Director of the Indian River Mosquito Control District, a series of round table discussions was held on such topics as surveillance, larviciding techniques, and adulticiding methods. With the help of Jim Robinson (Director of the Pasco County Mosquito Control District) and Bill Opp (then with the Office of Entomology, FDHRS) a formal set of courses was developed and used to train mosquito control personnel with the aim of formally certifying all workers with a prerequisite of the EPA's CORE examination in public health pest control. Today, the Dodd Short Courses are sponsored by the FMCA and held annually. Courses are offered in fields as wide-ranging as personnel management to droplet-size analysis. At least 25 topics were presented at the 1996 session. This program aims to assure that Florida mosquito control districts are staffed with well-trained individuals (see Chapter 12 for more details).


In 1980, considerable disagreement concerning some mosquito control practices existed between mosquito control interests, represented by the Office of Entomology (FDHRS) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), state agencies with conflicting mandates. Governor Graham intervened to resolve this and future problems by forming a committee representing these various concerns. This was the beginning of the Governor's Working Group on Mosquito Control, which had its first meeting in May 1980. It was from this beginning that the Florida Coordinating Council on Mosquito Control (FCCMC) was created by the Legislature in Chapter 388 F.S. in 1986.

The membership of FCCMC essentially followed that of the Governor's Working Group. The original members represented each of the following agencies: DNR, FDACS, the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation (DER), the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission (FGFWFC), the University of Florida, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), USDA, two mosquito control directors, and two representatives from FDHRS, an epidemiologist and the Director of the Office of Entomology, who would serve as chairman. Also included in 1986 were two at-large environmentalists and two property owners whose lands were subject to mosquito control activities. The membership has been modified since 1986 to reflect changes in agencies, such as the creation of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) from the DNR and DER, the change resulting in the transfer of the entomology program from FDHRS to FDACS, and the JAMSARL transfer to FAMU.

Currently, the FCCMC meets three times a year and is specifically mandated to assist FDACS in resolving disputes arising over the control of arthropods on publicly owned lands, to identify and recommend to FAMU research priorities for arthropod control practices and technologies, to develop and recommend to FDACS a request-for-proposal process for arthropod control research, to identify potential funding sources for research on implementation projects, and to evaluate and rank proposals upon request by the funding source. A final mandate is to prepare and present reports, as needed, on arthropod control activities in the state to the Pesticide Review Council, the Florida Coastal Management Program Interagency Management Committee, and other governmental organizations as appropriate.

One of the most important activities of the FCCMC was the creation of the Subcommittee on Managed Marshes (SOMM). Originally named the Technical Subcommittee on Mosquito Impoundments in 1983, like the FCCMC, it was formally established as SOMM in Chapter 388 F.S. in 1986. This interagency committee, with a membership makeup similar to FCCMC was established to provide technical assistance and guidance on salt marsh management plans and to develop and review research proposals for mosquito-source reduction techniques.


This history of mosquito control in Florida and the institutions that have influenced it are all too brief and leave out many facets of mosquito control history that should be recorded. Every common activity that we engage in has a fascinating story, at least for those in the profession. Additional history will appear elsewhere in this report.