What’s all the buzz about? Mosquitoes

Published 7:39 pm Saturday, May 5, 2012

Picnics along the river shore … a volleyball match in the back yard … a few hours spent tending the family vegetable and flower gardens.

Sound like fun? The only “fly” in the ointment, perhaps, is that pesky creature buzzing around your head. While spring, summer and early fall along the Pamlico River bring picture perfect weather for outdoor activities, those seasons also bring mosquitoes.

‘Everything and the kitchen sink’ Eugene McRoy of the Beaufort County Health Department examines mosquito larvae found in water standing in a cast-off kitchen sink, a breeding ground for the flying pests. (WDN Photo/Kevin Scott Cutler)

The average homeowner can take action to reduce or eliminate elements that draw mosquitoes, says Eugene McRoy, environmental health program specialist with the Beaufort County Health Department.

“We can have mosquitoes all year, with late summer through early fall having the majority of the real problems,” McRoy told the Daily News. “But they can be present in the spring and early summer. In fact, mosquitoes are out now.”

What can local residents do to “mosquito-proof” their surroundings?

“We recommend right now that people do a sweep and look for anything that can hold water,” McRoy advised. “This can be old tires, flowerpots, buckets, kids’ toys … anything that can hold water for more than a few days can breed tons of mosquitoes.”

Ornamental goldfish ponds are generally not a problem since fish “are very good at feeding on mosquito larvae,” McRoy said. He advised emptying bird baths and refilling them with fresh water every few days to rid the containers of larvae, as well. “The big thing is finding the source of water and getting rid of it. That makes a world of difference,” he added.

And commercial products like mosquito dunks or donuts, available at most gardening supply warehouses and hardware stores, can be safely used. “They’re not a gimmick … they do work,” McRoy said.

Eastern North Carolina’s flying nemesis is the Asian tiger mosquito. As the name implies, they are native to Asia but are believed to have been transported to the United States in tires years ago, according to McRoy. “Most mosquitoes tend to bite at night, but that one will bite all day long,” he said. “They’ll feed on you any time of day when people are outside. They are very aggressive and will bite you in an instant.”

Health concerns shouldn’t force folks to spend the warm weather months inside, however.

“We haven’t seen any sign of West Nile Virus, and it’s very rare for humans to get Eastern Equine Encephalitis,” McRoy said. “Luckily there has been no sign of that in quite a while. It’s nothing to go freak out about. You can just take precautions and use repellents if you’re going outside.”

McRoy said the Center for Disease Control offers some recommendations regarding products an individual can apply to his or her skin when working or playing outdoors. “Deet is the best, and something new called picaridan may offer some protection from mosquitoes,” he said. “And there’s oil of lemon, eucalyptus and citronella.”

The Beaufort County Health Department kicks up its spraying program a notch once the mosquito problem begins escalating in July and early August. The county is permitted to spray by the Environmental Protection Agency and there are guidelines to follow.

“You can’t just randomly spray … you have to obtain data to justify spraying,” McRoy said. “We follow the example of Brunswick County with a landing count rate. You go outside and see how many land on you in a minute’s time.”

Weather, of course, has a bearing on the local mosquito population.

“After Hurricane Irene last year, Beaufort County had the most mosquitoes I’ve ever seen at one time,” McRoy said.

For more information about mosquito control, visit the Beaufort County Health Department website, www.bchd.net.