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Recent rains boost pest control businesses

Pest-control companies see boom from rainy conditions

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As mosquito populations have multiplied in all the recent rainfalls, so too have the calls to pest-control companies.

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Baldomer Avilia-Reyes, of the Mosquito Squad of Augusta, sprays in the backyard of a home in the Highgate subdivision in Augusta.   SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Baldomer Avilia-Reyes, of the Mosquito Squad of Augusta, sprays in the backyard of a home in the Highgate subdivision in Augusta.

Mosquito Squad of Augusta co-owner Scott Anderson said he has seen his company grow by about 30 percent to 40 percent annually since he started the franchise three years ago. He attributes much of that expansion to the weather.

“These past two summers have been unbelievably wet,” Anderson said.

At Advanced Services for Pest Control, technical director Bo Thomas said the business has taken on three part-time employees for extra response and hopes to add more equipment to deal specifically with suppressing mosquitoes.

“We’ve definitely been in a pinch,” Thomas said. “It’s been a really bad season for bugs.”

Advanced Services already has received three times as many requests for mosquito treatment this year as by the same date in 2012 – from 35 calls to more than 105, Thomas said.

“It’s huge,” Thomas said of the rain. “Without it, they don’t thrive.”

With February and June going down as among the wettest months in Augusta’s history, health officials and exterminators warn of the swarms of mosquitoes expected this year. On Monday, the Georgia Department of Public Health confirmed this year’s first human case of the West Nile virus in the state.

In addition to West Nile, the most prevalent mosquito-borne viruses in Georgia are Eastern equine encephalitis and La Crosse, according to the state’s public health department.

Another factor contributing to the change in business seen by many in the pest control industry could be a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provision, enforced in 2012, that banned Richmond County Mosquito Control and other agencies from routine, scheduled sprayings. Instead, mosquito spraying now has to be documented and justified after a complaint is received.

“With the local municipalities not being able to do what they once did, it’s affected us quite a bit,” said David Brunson, the owner of Brunson Pest Control.

Fred Koehle, the operations manager for Richmond County Mosquito Control, said the federal ruling hasn’t altered his department’s workload but has significantly increased the amount of paperwork and manpower required for calls, upwards of six additional hours each day, and has put a 10 percent dent in the $145,000 budget.

Having fielded about 750 complaints so far this year, mosquito control is still in line to match last year’s number of 1,425. In past years, the calls have averaged between 350 and 525, Koehle said.

Koehle blames the spike on wet conditions, which has caused mosquito control to fall a few days behind.

After the heavy rain tapers off, though, Brunson expects his business to see a substantial increase as more mosquitoes are bred.

“We haven’t seen the influx that’s fixing to come,” he said. “We’re fixing to be bombarded with them.”

Brunson said his staff is prepared to adjust to the anticipated change in calls. Two of his 10 employees have been trained specifically in mosquito reduction. This year, the company also has two more blowing machines equipped with chemicals designed to combat mosquitoes.

“It’s definitely coming,” Brunson said of the mosquito invasion. “No doubt about it.”

MOSQUITO-PREVENTION TIPS

• Destroy or dispose of tin cans, old tires, buckets, unused plastic swimming pools and other containers around the house that can hold water.

• Routinely dump water accumulating in flowerpots, urns and pet dishes.

• Clean debris from rain gutters and remove any standing water under or around structures, and on flat roofs.

• Stock ornamental pools with top-feeding predacious minnows, known as mosquito fish.

• Fill or drain puddles, ditches, swampy areas, tree holes and stumps.

• Eliminate seepage from cisterns, cesspools and septic tanks.

• Eliminate standing water around animal water troughs.

• Check for trapped water in plastic or canvas tarps used to cover boats, pools and other objects around the yard.

• Irrigate lawns and gardens carefully to prevent water from standing for several days.

• Install mosquito traps in the yard.

• Disperse space spray indoors.

• Ensure windows, doors and porches are tightly screened.

• Clear weeds in the yard, or apply insecticide to lower limbs of shade trees, shrubs and other vegetation.

Source: American Mosquito Control Association


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