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Mosquitoes expected out in droves
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As the heavy rains take a breather, city and county mosquito control are gearing up for what they predict will be a major mosquito boom.
Gary Gilliard with the city’s public works contractor, OMI, explained that mosquitoes take a few days to fully mature, and with the standing water from the past weeks of consistent rain, a population explosion is likely.
“Whenever there’s over one inch of rain, within a seven-day period they’ll breed,” Gilliard said.
Combine that with the more than two weeks of solid rain and it’s obvious why OMI mosquito counts are already high for the season and mosquito control fleets are out spraying roads and yards.
The steady rain and runoff prevented the crew from spraying insecticides, the number one measure against the insects. But, they’re now hitting the streets hard, spraying the city twice a day as well as putting growth preventative hormones in ditches.
At home, Gilliard encourages residents to fight the bugs in their yards by emptying any and every container holding standing water. He said they will breed wherever there’s enough water.
Jack Vereen, director of mosquito control for Liberty County, said there’s yet another factor that will contribute to an upcoming rise in bloodsuckers. In the salt marshes of the county, storm winds have pushed tides higher than normal, creating new tidal pools that don’t have regular drainage.
The new saltwater pools attract two more kinds of mosquitoes.
“There’ll be a bumper crop of mosquitoes and behind that there’ll be another bumper crop from the salt marsh,” Vereen said. “There’ll be two kinds: the black and brown saltwater species and they’re the worst biters.”
He has two spray trucks on the road to help keep people from itching.
“We had an awful lot of rain and in most cases that water has been running off, but now that the water is just sitting there’s going to be mosquito issues in Liberty County,” Vereen said “We’re now in inspection and treatment mode. We’ve been out treating high profile mosquito sites.”
He said a high profile sites are where the population is extraordinarily dense. He said there are pockets identified where thousands are known to breed.
So, what do all these insects mean for public health?
In terms of spreading disease, people need to watch out for the common, smaller, grayish colored bugs, which belong to the Culex genus. Vereen said they are common carriers of the West Nile disease and can be found anywhere, but especially around storm drains.
“We haven’t turned up any of the virus in humans yet,” Vereen said. “We trap a lot and send them to a lab to be tested.”
He said cases in dogs, cats and wild animals, however, are much harder to track and they don’t yet know if the disease affects these populations as well.
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