Observer News

We Need Your Help Finding Mosquito Breeding Sites in Old Tires

Inez Mauad, citizen scientist and educator, from GLOBE Brazil, documented a tire breeding site and eliminated it from use. These are actions citizen scientists can take to reduce the burden of mosquito-borne disease in their community using the GLOBE Observer Mosquito Habitat Mapper. (Photo Credit: Russanne Low)


The GLOBE Mission Mosquito Spare Tire Blitz launched in March and goes through June 2022. During the blitz, scientists are asking for your Mosquito Habitat Mapper observations. With this information, scientists will be able to document where female mosquitoes are using spare or discarded tires as breeding sites.


The dark color and insulating properties of tire rubber creates a microenvironment that supports the growth and development of mosquito larvae, particularly at the beginning and end of the breeding season where other sites might be too chilly or inhospitable.


Tires discarded or stored outside can be found in communities worldwide. This map shows where there have been reports of mosquito habitats found in tires using data from the GLOBE Observer Mosquito Habitat Mapper tool (2017-present).


Locations where GLOBE Observers have reported tire breeding sites using the Mosquito Habitat Mapper (2017-present). Participants in the Spare Time Blitz will help raise awareness of discarded tires as a public health threat. (Data: The GLOBE Program)


To give a sense of the scope of this world-wide problem, scrap tire stockpiles in the U.S. total to over 56 million tires. With so many tires discarded on the landscape, female mosquitoes can continue to use these as breeding sanctuaries.


Scientist Dan Killingsworth is working with GLOBE Mosquito Mappers in the TREAD Initiative.


TREAD stands for:

Tire- Locate and map refuse tires

Removal- Collect tires from roadsides and other locations (with permissions)

Education- Identify and catalog mosquitoes to species and measure water volumes collected to determine total larval development volume removed (water quality testing possible)

Alteration- Cut off sidewalls of tires and chop tread to provide three pieces that lay flat to reduce transport and storage space (and eliminate water from collecting)

Disposal- Work with local regulators to reduce the landfill tipping fees for tires brought in under this program and collaborate with tire recycling outlets to repurpose rubber and steel products


How to Eliminate Used Tires as Mosquito Habitats?

For example, burying whole tires in a landfill is not a good solution. Tires are engineered to be rugged and long-lasting and don’t deteriorate quickly. When buried, their rubbery nature allows them to compress and spring back to form, where they tend to work themselves back to the landfill surface, once again becoming available as mosquito breeding sites. If trapped underground, tires pose other health hazards. When tires catch on fire, they can smolder for remarkably long periods of time and create noxious gas pockets that are ultimately released to the surface.

When encountering discarded tires, here are some recommendations and actions:


  • Dispose of any tires in your yard by contacting a tire recycling service, or you could even ask your local council to point you in the right direction
  • Drill holes in tire swings to allow for proper water drainage
  • Store your unused tires in closed containers or indoors
  • Cover scrap tires with a plastic cover or tarp (always remember to drain that regularly, as well)
  • Shred or drill holes in old tires stored outside so they won’t collect stagnant water
  • At a minimum, always try to dump out the water when you see used tires.


The GLOBE Observer Mosquito Habitat Mapper is used to photograph water and mosquito larvae inside a discarded tire. (Photo Credit: Russanne Low)


Citizen scientists can help lead the effort to promote awareness of tire breeding habitats by documenting and mapping tire locations using the Mosquito Habitat Mapper mobile data reporting tool within the GLOBE Observer app. Larvae photos are welcomed and needed as well! This data will support public and private mosquito control operations, municipal park services, and other capable entities to create a call to action for tire removal. Municipalities and mosquito management efforts would benefit from a tire removal program geared toward educating the public, providing research data, and reducing mosquito populations by promoting area-wide tire removal efforts.


We look forward to receiving your uploaded observations from the Mosquito Habitat Mapper! Next time we share the map of tire habitats reported by our community, your observations will be on it!

You are also invited to watch a recording of the March GLOBE Mission Mosquito Webinar, where you can learn more details about this year’s Spare Tire Blitz. And who knows? If you are in the Northern Hemisphere, you might just find the first spring hatches of larvae in your area! Learn more about GLOBE Mission Mosquito.

Co-authors at the Entomological Society of America Conference, Denver, 2021. (Photo Credit: Dan Killingsworth)


Dan Killingsworth is Director of Operations for EnSec Pest Control, Pensacola, FL. His work focuses on developing integrated pest management and bio-control strategies for public health vector control. As a beekeeper for over 25 years, protecting pollinators and beneficial insects is at the forefront of his mitigation research.


Dr. Russanne Low is a senior scientist with the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, Arlington, VA, and serves as the Science Lead for The GLOBE Program’s GLOBE Observer Mosquito Habitat Mapper, a citizen science data collection and analysis tool used in 84 countries.