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Wet conditions expand mosquito population

Tuesday, July 23, 2013 12:35 PM
Last updated Wednesday, July 24, 2013 12:26 PM
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Weeks of rainfall and flooding are tapering off, but the bug wars are just beginning.

Columbia County, for instance, already is fielding new complaints about mosquitoes, which multiply rapidly when stagnant water accelerates breeding opportunities.

Complaints called in to the county’s 3-1-1 line recently include water-filled tires, unattended swimming pools and areas where scrap metal in a junkyard holds enough water to harbor mosquito larvae.

Across much of Georgia, a banner year of wet weather is expected to translate to a bumper crop of blood-seeking mosquitoes, according to scientists.

Elmer Gray, an entomologist for the University of Georgia’s Cooperative Extension Service, says the nuisance mosquitoes are expected to be particularly bad in coming weeks.

“The heat is going to cap off the months of rain to make for quite a population, I expect,” Gray said in an interview with the Athens Banner-Herald.

The most prolific mosquito species expected to appear in coming weeks is the Asian tiger mosquito, which normally breeds in small containers of water, such as clogged-up gutters, old tires and unused flower pots lying in a yard.

“Everything that could possibly hold water in the community is holding water,” Gray said, adding that the Asian tiger mosquito is not the primary carrier of West Nile virus.

That disease is usually associated with the Southern house mosquito, whose numbers are low – for now.

Residents can help control mosquitoes by eliminating breeding opportunities.

Cleaning clogged gutters, storing wheelbarrows and buckets upside down, changing water in birdbaths, and filling in or draining low-lying areas that hold water are all steps that reduce mosquito populations.

Andrea Frazier, an environmental health specialist for the Columbia County Health Department, urges residents to remember that mosquitoes usually bite at dusk and dawn and that loose-fitting, long-sleeve shirts and pants can reduce skin exposed to the insects.

Insect repellents using the chemical DEET are also helpful, she said.

In Augusta, the Richmond County Mos­quito Con­trol office is using a new tactic this year – mosquitofish – to control mosquito populations at abandoned pools. The tiny fish consume huge numbers of mosquito larvae.

Columbia County has an Integrated Mosquito Management Program Team with representation from departments including code enforcement, roads and bridges, and the water utility. The group collaborates to resolve mosquito-related issues.

During 2012, the county’s 3-1-1 Customer Service and Information Center received 48 mosquito-related complaints. Abandoned or neglected pools accounted for the majority of those complaints, amounting to 54 percent of the calls. General nuisance complaints accounted for 25 percent, drainage issues accounted for 15 percent and combined retention/detention/private ponds accounted for 6 percent of the calls.

Evans residents reported the majority of mosquito complaints, followed by Martinez and Grovetown, with no complaints from the Harlem or Appling areas, according to county officials.

Associated Press reports were used in this article.


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