Richmond County Mosquito Control work doesn't stop in winter

Jerry DeRamus tosses a larvae control tablet into stagnant water inside an apparently abandoned pool in the Lake Olmstead area.

Even though it is winter, Richmond County Mosquito Control is trying to manage more than 50 abandoned or neglected pools that to feed the mosquito population year-round.

“We have 12 months of activity, pretty much,” said Fred Koehle, the operations manager for mosquito control.

The warm weather lately will likely fuel some larvae to turn into mosquitoes, he said. He finds that evidence in a stagnant pool of water inside a tilted plastic wagon.

“Those little white things floating in there, those are pupa shells” from hatching larvae, Koehle said.

Even if the weather turns colder, as it is forecast to later this week, it likely won’t kill off those adults hatching now, he said.

The cold “slows down their activity and they go into their hiding places,” he said. For instance, the 20,000 or so storm drains around the county are a likely hideout, Koehle said.

“That’s why we’re so hot on treating the storm drains,” he said. Those efforts begin in earnest February.

The house and its abandoned pool appear to be providing a welcoming place for mosquitoes, too, Koehle said. Staring up at the eaves, Koehle sees much he does not like.

“Roof gutters, they’re breeding up there like crazy,” he said.

The vines on the fence in the backyard and the tall grass also provide good cover for the mosquitoes, DeRamus said.

Richmond County had a flood of mosquito complaints last year, Koehle said. While normally they would see 500 annually, they got 1,425 in 2012. At one point in August, they were averaging 60 a day, likely fueled by news about West Nile virus outbreaks elsewhere.

People were “panicking based on what they heard about in Texas and Oklahoma,” Koehle said.

The West Nile virus outbreak was much heavier in that region, but all of the 48 contiguous states saw cases, the Centers for Disease Control Prevention said. In its final report last month, there were 5,387 human cases and 243 deaths nationwide. That included 78 human cases in Georgia, with six deaths, and 29 cases in South Carolina, with three deaths, including an 80-year-old man in North Augusta. Richmond and Columbia counties saw three cases each, with no deaths. But Richmond County also had five cases of the much more rare mosquito-borne disease eastern equine encephalitis virus that showed up in five emus.

“We kind of thought we had it figured out because the location was next to a horse ranch,” Koehle said. “But the horses were all clean.”

The best guess now is that the location is less than a mile from a swampy area that might have harbored a mosquito more likely to appear in south Georgia, he said.

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