The thirst for knowledge among central and eastern Europe’s pest professionals is, if anything, higher than their western counterparts. The technical presentations at Parasitec in Budapest attracted plenty of interest. The event fielded a full programme of presentations, concentrating on stinging and biting insect management.
The programme was developed jointly by the PC Media event organising team and its partner MaKOSZ, the Hungarian professional association, chaired by Dr Dániel Bajomi. The seminars benefitted from simultaneous translation; all were presented in English with the translation being made into Hungarian. This correspondent had the good fortune to be able to listen to the presentations in my native language.
Most of the first day was dedicated to mosquitoes and bed bugs.
Dr Norbert Becker, the Scientific Director of KABS (the German Mosquito Control Association) at the University of Heidelberg, opened the programme with a presentation entitled ‘Mosquito Control on Two Frontiers – the Control of Indigenous and Exotic Species’.
KABS was founded in 1976 and now covers an area of some 6,000k2 with some 2.7 million residents. A budget of approximately €4m allows KABS to operate a programme involving both prevention and cure of endemic species.
Control can range from the supply of Bacillus thuringienis israelenis (Bti) tablets to local residents, to the delivery of frozen pelleted Bti to breeding sites by helicopter. KABS also operates a sterile male release programme to help keep breeding to a minimum.
The impressive KABS budget also allows it to monitor actively for ‘exotic’ species. Currently, concern centres on the potential spread of the Asian Tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), with the threats to human health that these insects can carry. The Asian Tiger mosquito was first found in Germany in 2007. KABS work on the influx of exotic species also involves the likely import route, so as to prevent reinvasion once the invaders have been eradicated.
Mosies in Hungary
Dr Gábor Kemenesi, from the University of Pécs, followed Dr Becker with an appraisal of the mosquito situation in Hungary. He summarised a range of potential health issues already present in Europe, and others which, almost inevitably, will follow. There are already problems in some areas with Dengue, and there have been several cases of West Nile Virus in Eastern Europe during 2018. Dr Kemenesi was of the opinion that the arrival of Zika virus was just a matter of time.
Aedes albopictus and Aedes japonicas were found in Hungary in 2014 and 2012, respectively and have spread from south to north and from west to east. The next likely invader is thought to be the Korean mosquito (Aedes koreicus). This insect is of concern as it prefers urban environments, it likes to feed from humans, it is diurnal and is capable of overwintering in Hungary.
Dr Kemenesi concluded by stressing the need for political commitment to bring about effective mosquito management. He explained how it is difficult in Hungary to get political support for Integrated Pest Management, or the use of Bti. As a result, 98% of control is by the use of insecticides.
Bed bugs next
Later in the day Dr Gabi Müller of the Urban Pest Advisory Service in Zurich, a part of the Department of Public Health and Environment, extended the discussion to cover bed bugs. She made a compelling case that effective prevention of the spread of bed bugs and of (other) disease-causing insect ectoparasites, required government intervention at both a local and a national level.
It is often observed that bed bugs are not vectors of disease. Dr Muller said that this does not mean they are not a public health issue. According to the WHO: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. She made a case for bed bugs being the cause of stress, anxiety and emotional distress, leading to insomnia, paranoia, hallucination, depression, PTSD and suicide.
Dr Muller also argued that bed bugs were a particular problem for residents on low incomes who could not afford eradication treatments and who lived with them from year to year.
Wasps and hornets
Dr Zoltán Vas of the Hungarian Natural History Museum made a presentation on the range of wasps and hornets endemic in Hungary. Of 20 species, five are pests, whilst 15 tend to avoid human contact.
As well as the ‘vespinae’ wasps familiar to us in the UK, Hungary has two species of ‘paper’ wasps (Polistes dominula and Polistes nimpha). It also boasts the Mammoth Wasp (Megascolia maculata)…. a wasp, not a hornet, and the largest wasp in Europe.
Hungary, like the rest of Europe, is also bracing itself for the invasion of the Asian Hornet, (Vespa velutina).