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Buzz off: Combat summer pests
Local expert says mosquito problems are preventable
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Vereen holds an Aedes taeniorhynchus, better known as a black salt-marsh mosquito, that he captured while investigating a Woodland Lakes yard on Friday. Salt-marsh mosquitoes tend to breed in one area and migrate up to 30 miles away, so they can be problematic for short times and then disappear, he said. - photo by Danielle Hipps

The 5 Ds of Prevention

Dusk: Mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus usually bite at dusk and dawn.

Dawn: Avoid outdoor activity at dusk and dawn if possible. If you must be outside, be sure to protect yourself from bites.

Dress:  Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants to reduce the amount of exposed skin.

DEET:  Cover exposed skin with an insect repellent containing the chemical DEET, which is the most effective repellent against mosquito bites.

Drain: Empty any containers holding standing water because they can be excellent breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Source: Liberty County Health Department

For more than 30 years, Jack Vereen has worked to “fight the bite.”

The Liberty County Mosquito Control director, who has studied mosquito species, habits and extermination, now spends his time overseeing insecticide operations and teaching residents how to prevent problems.

“It’s a simple thing,” he said about reducing the effects of mosquitoes. “But people don’t always retain what you tell them.”

The department, run out of Midway’s Limerick Road, sends out three drivers at dusk to spray micro-encapsulated insecticides throughout the county almost nightly. This year, it operated within a budget of $244,236, he said.

And Vereen spends a fair amount of his time inspecting properties in response to resident complaints, which come most frequently after a rain.

“A lot of people don’t call when it rains or when the tide comes up,” he said. “But they’ll call once the mosquitoes show up.”

Georgia residents are plagued by about 63 species of the world’s thousands of varieties of mosquitoes, which pose a public-health risk because they are capable of carrying a range of diseases. The effects of their bites vary depending on their species and whether they arise in salt marshes or are domestic.  

Salt-marsh mosquitoes, which come in droves after an influx of water, are most common in the eastern parts of the county, near Midway and Sunbury. They do not pose the great health risks that other varieties pose, but Vereen said they are “fierce biters” that draw humans’ attention pretty quickly, unlike others.

“Most of these can take a blood meal and fly away and you never knew they were there,” he said. Often domestic varieties, these pose the greatest health risks.

Domestic mosquitoes, particularly the Aedes albopictus and the Culex genus, are the ones that carry diseases like equine encephalitis and West Nile Virus, he said. And they’re also the ones that best can be prevented.

Removing standing water is key to eliminating the threat of domestic mosquitoes because they cannot hatch without it, Vereen said. But they are able to lie dormant until conditions are ripe — wet and with an air temperature in the 70s and 80s — which is why the bugs are most problematic during the spring and summer.

During house calls, Vereen likes to identify sources of standing water, like potted plants, rain buckets, wheelbarrows and birdbaths, that can become breeding grounds for larvae. Using white tape that reads “Fight the Bite,” he draws attention to the problem areas so owners know how to solve their bug struggles.

To investigate whether a population is really out of hand, Vereen will walk into a property’s brush — wearing repellent on his legs and a mosquito hat to protect his head — and count how many flock to him. If he sees more than five in a minute’s time, there’s a problem, he said.

The mosquito control team treats infested areas with a “blitz”: one regular spray followed by a special sequel, he said.
Natural bodies of water are not problematic because minnows and fish eat the eggs, he added.

To keep populations under control, each area of the county is sprayed one time every week. Though Vereen has heard many complaints that his office does not spray frequently enough, he limits the amount deliberately.

 “I don’t want to be accused of over-insecticiding people or causing any other environmental problems,” he said.

His team also sets traps two nights each week to capture and analyze mosquitoes in various locations. Frazier Sylvers, Vereen’s assistant, sorts the samples by species and sends them to Tift College for analysis — primarily to test them for diseases.

In addition to reducing domestic breeding grounds, citizens can protect their homes by purchasing barrier sprays at retail stores. If killing mosquitoes is listed within the product’s first three purposes, it likely will do the trick, Vereen said. Wearing repellent sprays also is a crucial element to protection.

Hinesville Public Works Department Project Manager Gary Gilliard, who oversees pest control within the city, was not available by press time to discuss the city’s mosquito control procedures.

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