Anyone who’s been outside longer than it takes to walk from a car to a building knows that mosquitoes are worse than normal this year.
Both Hinesville and Liberty County officials responsible for helping to control the mosquito population are aware of the problem, and they moved into action last week to fight the biters.
“We started spraying last Monday evening in three zones,” said Kenna Graham, Hinesville Public Works parks and grounds supervisor. “We had such a warm winter, and spring came early. That’s why they’re so bad this year.”
Some mosquitoes can live up to a year, and mosquito larvae can lay dormant for years waiting for a slow, steady rain — like the kind Coastal Georgia has had in recent weeks, Graham said.
Liberty County Mosquito Control began spraying March 28, according to County Administrator Joey Brown.
During the Liberty County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday night, the board peppered Mosquito Control Director Jack Vereen with questions about the bugs and why his department did not respond sooner.
“We are inundated with phone calls,” BoC Chairman John McIver said, adding he was not pleased to hear that the county did not begin spraying immediately when the bugs appeared.
Vereen said the short, warm winter and early spring forced the county to get its spraying equipment de-winterized, calibrated and serviced three or four weeks ahead of schedule. However, the equipment must be calibrated by a third party, and the company already was committed to doing other jobs by the time Vereen called.
“He just can’t drop everything and show up,” Vereen said. “He has a lot of other mosquito controls on his plan … He showed up Wednesday, … and we started working Wednesday night. We started with Wednesday night spray areas, Thursday night spray areas.”
New directives from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Water Act and the state Environmental Protection Division also have complicated the procedures and preparations the team must take before they begin spraying, Vereen added.
While the city and county both spray for bugs, Vereen and Graham both said residents need to help by taking some population control into their own hands.
To be effective, the poison in the spray has to come in direct contact with the flying mosquitoes — which is why people may not feel the benefits of the spray in their backyards or if they have tree lines in front of their homes.
Most mosquitoes don’t travel too far from where they are born, Graham said — and standing water is a key element of their resurgence.
For that reason, residents need to remove the standing-water sources in which mosquitoes grow, such as clogged gutters, kiddie pools, flower-pot overflow pans, old tires, buckets and bird baths.
Hinesville Public Works Director Gregg Higgins said his department also sets mosquito traps in various places around the city to catch and test mosquitoes.
“All winter long, (Kenna) is out there looking at storm drains and areas where mosquitoes are likely to spawn,” Higgins said. “He has already selected certain areas where he needs to drop ‘mosquito biscuits’ like drains and ditches, and those areas that will need to be sprayed.”
“Once he has identified what kind of mosquito he’s dealing with in a specific area, he can say, ‘I know who you are now, and I know where you live,’” Higgins added. “He’s sort of an insect detective. After they’re identified, they’re sent off to the Center for Disease Control to test them for West Nile Virus or other diseases carried by mosquitoes.”
Hinesville Public Works uses three types of traps: an old-style trap called the Jersey trap, the CDC light trap and the “hay fusion” trap, which is used to catch the species known to carry West Nile Virus.
The mosquito experts predict a long mosquito season and advise residents to prepare for it.
“All the flood-water mosquitoes that were lying dormant got what they wanted — a slow rain, high tide and warm winter,” Vereen said. “In addition to our spraying and (residents) eliminating some of the source where they grow, I recommend using repellents. Also wear long sleeve shirts and long pants to cover up unprotected areas of your body.”