It’s that time of the year again that most coastal communities dread — mosquito season.
The season, which generally runs from May through September in the South, is full of those pesky little flying creatures that appear most heavily in the early morning and late-afternoon hours.
Liberty County Mosquito Control offers mosquito-control services to rural areas and a few of the municipal governments through contract.
Using a staff of two full-time positions — Assistant Director Darin Melton and me, along with three seasonal personnel — our spraying season normally starts in April and ends sometime in October. Our goal is to spray the entire county, and those with whom we contract, once a week. A normal nightly spray route for one of the three spray trucks is between 120 and 150 miles. This is a monumental task for such a small department given the number of miles that must be covered each week.
Mosquito Control’s vehicles are equipped with some of the latest spray equipment available. The spray devices are electric and make little to no sound as they spray.
One of the biggest complaints we receive is, “I never hear the spray truck coming in my neighborhood.” Several years ago, in an attempt to become as “green” as possible and as efficient as we could, we converted all of our spray devices to electric. This cut down on energy cost, maintenance and noise. A side benefit is that these machines weigh about 150 pounds less, which reduces fuel and maintenance costs on the trucks themselves. The machines also contain GPS devices that not only record where the spray trucks go, but also the exact spray locations and the amount of spray emitted at any given moment.
If there is ever a question about whether an area was sprayed, the machines can be queried to determine if an area or address was sprayed, as well as how much spray was delivered. I feel that this is an important feature for not only the department, but also for residents who may inquire about their spray history.
Safety and environmental-sensitivity factors are very imporatant to the department. Because of this, the spray machines have many safety features. First, they are carefully calibrated to operate according to certain parameters. Drivers cannot manipulate how much or how little they spray an area. The amount of chemical dispersed is programmed according to truck speed. The machines will only spray if the trucks are moving between 5 and 20 mph to ensure proper coverage. We constantly monitor driver speed by checking the GPS.
Another safety consideration is the type of chemical used. We use a water-soluble chemical that is better for the environment and humans than oil-based chemicals used by other agencies. Because it is water-based, the spray is almost invisible coming out of the machine, which leads to the second-biggest complaint we receive: “We see the spray truck, but we do not see any spray coming out.” We strive to take care of a problem without harming people. Every few years, our department has to re-evaluate the type of chemical used because mosquitoes become immune to a constant mixture.
There are restrictions on when and what areas can be treated. Spraying does not occur if wind speeds exceed 10 mph. Additionally, we cannot spray in direct sun light, if the temperature is colder than 50 degrees, or if it is raining. These issues may cause an area to be missed periodically. If an area is missed because of these conditions, every effort is made to catch it up in that same week. Restrictions also exist because of gated properties or special requests made by the public. Our drivers have been instructed to not open gates to private properties.
If you have or are considering installing gates, you must make arrangements with me or my assistant in advance to have the gate open if you desire to have your area sprayed. On the other hand, if you do not wish to have your property sprayed, please contact our department so that you may be placed on a no-spray list. These areas are marked on the appropriate drivers’ map, and they do not spray there provided that no other residents are affected negatively by the request.
Liberty County Mosquito Control does much more than just spray. We also inspect standing water and search for infestations of mosquitoes. It is better to be proactive than to be reactive. “Traps” are set for mosquitoes and, once caught, they are typed (species and sex identified) and sent off to the University of Georgia to be evaluated. UGA checks to see whether they are carriers of any of the major diseases such as West Nile. If any tests come back positive, spraying efforts are doubled, and an intense monitoring program is begun in the identified risk area to reduce or eliminate any threats.
We strive to be a very proactive department, and we want to do all we can to keep the residents of Liberty County as comfortable as possible. Anyone who has questions may contact our office at 912-884-2065, and we will be glad to assist them.
Sylvers is the director of Liberty County Mosquito Control.