Preparedness & Recovery

Bugging out: Mosquito Control Working Hard After Storm

'In the wake of any hurricane, you are going to see an increase in the mosquito population.'

by Taylor Cooper, The Brunswick News, Ga. / September 22, 2017
Todd Hester uses a vehicle to pull Tony Holt's trailer out of the flood waters left behind by Hurricane Irma in Gainesville, Fla., Thursday Sept. 14, 2017, after Hurricane Irma. AP/Brad McClenny

(TNS) - While Hurricane Irma may have brought down fewer trees than Matthew a year ago, it made up for it in flooding, according to some Glynn County and utility officials. And where there is water in South Georgia, there will be mosquitoes.

“In the wake of any hurricane, you are going to see an increase in the mosquito population,” said Jessi Howard, Glynn County Mosquito Control Services manager and entomologist. “We expect them to be hatching now, and will be continuing for the next week until the water starts drying out.”

Mosquitoes go through four developmental stages and the first three stages involve water, Howard said.

“While many people associate mosquitoes strictly with standing water, that’s not necessarily the case,” Howard said. “Egg-laying behavior is a predominant factor that separates post-hurricane mosquitoes into two groups — floodwater species and standing water species.”

Floodwater species lay their eggs in moist soil, such as in a marsh. These mosquitoes hatch when storms or tides flood a previously dry area. Standing water mosquitoes, on the other hand, lay their eggs on the surface of standing water. It takes a mosquito on average seven to 10 days, depending on ecological conditions, to complete its metamorphosis and emerge from the water, Howard said.

“In hurricane events, previously dry areas flood, and when the areas saturated with water don’t drain, you have ideal conditions for both types of mosquitoes to hatch, so we are anticipating a surge in mosquito populations throughout the county in the coming days,” Howard said.

To combat this increase in the mosquito population, mosquito control took some precautions ahead of time using 30-day extended-release mosquito larvicide in key areas. On Wednesday of last week, two days after the hurricane passed, personnel were back at it, Howard said.

Day crews were doing inspections of public areas and applying larvicide to standing water and night trucks are spraying adulticide, which is designed to kill mosquitos that are flying, Howard said. They have been through every zone in the county as of Tuesday. Mosquito control cuts the county into 18 zones, and they are beginning to make second passes through them.

Aerial spraying was done over uninhabited areas of Andrews Island twice last week because the wind tends to blow mosquitoes that hatch there into downtown Brunswick and Blythe Island, Howard explained.

More extended-release chemicals were strategically placed around St. Simons, Jekyll and Blythe islands.

“It’s impossible to predict, but we have lots of surveillance tools out to try to guide (mosquito control) efforts. There’s a science behind this, and we are trying to predict and act accordingly.” Howard said. “We were trying to be proactive instead of reactive, so we put down (extended-release) larvicide in areas where we knew there would be standing water.”

Mosquito control also placed 70 traps around the county to get an idea of which species are booming and whether or not they are carrying diseases.

“Traps indicate it’s not too bad yet, but we’re working on getting larvicide into standing water and kill them before they start flying,” Howard said.

As with anything else, prevention is preferable to treatment.

“When in doubt, dump it out. Having standing water around your house is hazard, that’s where the disease laying mosquitos lay their eggs,” Howard said.

When water can’t be dumped, she recommended consumer larvicides such as Mosquito Dunks or Mosquito Torpedoes. It should be done as soon as possible, as Howard cautioned that a mosquito only needs a teaspoon of water to lay eggs in, and can lay around 200 eggs at once.

Other preventative measures include wearing clothing that covers the skin, wearing bug spray and staying indoors during dust and dawn, as mosquitoes are most active during those periods.

There will likely be a temporary spike in the species of mosquito known to carry West Nile virus, but Howard said this doesn’t mean there will be an increase in the number of mosquitoes actually carrying it. Some mosquitoes have been sent off to be tested, and she said so far all have come back negative for the disease. To be safe, they will continue testing.

Sally Silbermann, spokeswoman for the state Costal Health District, said West Nile symptoms include fever, along with headaches, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash. About one in five people will show symptoms. Mosquitoes that carry the West Nile virus are more likely to bite during the evening, night, and early morning, she added.

While mosquitoes known to carry the Zika virus do live in Georgia, there has yet to be a case of someone catching the disease in Georgia. All cases involve someone catching it elsewhere and bringing it here. Symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes.

Anyone who believes they have contracted the diseases should contact a medical professional right away.

Those that are experiencing problems with mosquitoes can put in a service request at the Glynn County Public Works website, glynncounty.org/71/Public-Works, or Mosquito Control Services, 912-217-6300. Howard said they would respond within 48 hours.

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©2017 The Brunswick News (Brunswick, Ga.)

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