Higher mosquito populations continue in county

Published 10:28 pm Friday, October 14, 2016

With standing water comes mosquito breeding.

After lingering floodwaters threatened the area this week, the potential for a spike in the mosquito population is higher than usual.

Although Hurricane Matthew didn’t help, mosquito numbers throughout Beaufort County were already high, according to Eugene McRoy, environmental health program specialist at the Beaufort County Health Department.

McRoy said the health department has received a couple of complaints about mosquitoes since Matthew, but it was already receiving complaints before then as well.

“How terrible, I don’t know for sure yet,” McRoy said of the current mosquito population. “We’ll do our surveillance trapping Monday.”

Mosquito traps are spread throughout the county — three on the north side of the river and three on the south side, McRoy said. Environmental health personnel collect trapped mosquitoes about once a week to get a better idea of the number of them, as well as any presence of illnesses that the insects carry.

“We try to spread them out as even as possible,” McRoy said. “It kind of tells us what kind of trends we’re seeing with the population. … Being after a hurricane, we may feel the need to do some additional trapping.”

In the past month, the health department has also done some pesticide spraying to combat the spike in mosquitoes. McRoy said health officials will likely continue spraying during evening hours, so as to avoid harming honeybee populations and young fishponds.

“We get an elevated amount of mosquitoes, and you know, we just spray until that goes away,” he said. “We’ve got a list of addresses with beekeepers, and we do our best to not spray (in those locations).”

Mosquito populations may also take a downturn as cooler weather moves into the area. After the first frost, especially, is when the mosquitoes’ spread is stunted, according to McRoy.

“We’re getting to the time of year when the nights are getting cooler, the days are getting shorter,” he said. “We’ll just have to see how the weather goes.”

Residents can help combat the spread of mosquitoes right at home, too.

The health department is asking residents to look for items that hold standing water, including buckets, old tires, pet bowls, clogged gutters and tarps, and toss out the water. Much of mosquito breeding takes place in residential areas with standing water.

“Those little things like that can make a small mosquito problem a big mosquito problem,” he said of standing water. “Those things do make a huge difference.”

Although concerns remain regarding mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus, as well as West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis and La Crosse Encephalitis, McRoy said there have been no heightened concerns of these risks from surveillance trappings.

“There’s nothing that we’ve had brought to our attention,” he said.

McRoy said residents should always take precautions, but there is no need for alarm — residents should wear long sleeves and pants, or apply insect repellent appropriately.

In Hyde County, mosquito control is often left up to residents, as there is no longer a program with Hyde County Health Department to combat population spikes.

Luana Gibbs, interim health director, said in a previous interview that while the mainland does not perform surveillance trappings or pesticide sprays, the same suggestions of tossing out standing water hold true. Ocracoke Island has its own spraying program.

McRoy said Beaufort County Health Department will know more about current numbers and what actions to take when it performs its next surveillance trapping Monday.

For more information about combating mosquitoes or to issue a complaint, visit www.bchd.net and scroll down to the “Problems with Mosquitoes?” heading at the bottom left.