TREASURE COAST, Fla. - Recent rains have been a blessing for the area's parched lawns, shriveling citrus groves and tinderbox pine-and-palmetto forests.
But guess who's loving the rain more than anyone?
"Rain and mosquitoes," said Douglas Carlson, director of the Indian River County Mosquito Control District, "when you get one, you usually get the other."
As the rainy season continues, said Gene Lemire, mosquito control manager for Martin County, "the mosquitoes are going to get worse — they always do."
Lemire said the biggest problem to arise with the increased rain is "people breeding mosquitoes in their own backyards. People will call and complain about mosquitoes biting in the daytime, we'll go out to their house and everywhere you look, there's something holding water — old tires, bird baths, tarps, upside-down garbage can lids — and breeding mosquitoes. It only takes a quarter-inch of water for mosquito larvae to grow."
But it's not like the little blood-suckers haven't been around before the rain came.
In St. Lucie County, especially Hutchinson Island, "we've been fighting a war with salt marsh mosquitoes since the end of May," said Jim David, St. Lucie County director of mosquito control and coastal management services.
David said county crews, already stretched thin because of budget cuts, have been "hamstrung" because nights have been too windy or too rainy for spraying.
"So we've had people up at dawn to treat and again at dusk," he said. "We're putting out every fog truck we have, and we have a driver for. We're in full operation, dealing with different problems in different areas."
By killing, catching or stunning from "a quarter to a half a million mosquitoes a day," David said, the crews have been able to contain them mostly to the island, with only sporadic outbreaks in low-lying areas on the mainland.
But now, David said, inland species of mosquitoes are "starting to pop" around the North Fork of the St. Lucie River and in pastures in western St. Lucie County.
In Indian River County, Carlson said Friday, mosquitoes that had been confined mostly around the Indian River Lagoon "have been seen in greater numbers in the west" because of recent rain.
"But so far," he said, "there's been no evidence of any type of mosquito-transmitted diseases" such as West Nile virus, St. Louis encephalitis and Eastern equine encephalitis. "So that's a positive."
Mosquito control begins at home
Here’s what you can do to make skeeters skedaddle:
Drain: Standing water from receptacles such as plastic swimming pools to stop mosquitoes from multiplying.
Discard: Old tires, drums, bottles, cans, pots and pans, broken appliances and other unused items that can collect water.
Empty and clean: Bird baths and pets’ water bowls twice a week.
Protect: Boats and vehicles with tarps that don’t accumulate water.
Maintain: Chemical levels in swimming pools.
Cover: If you’re outside when mosquitoes are active, cover up. Wear shoes, socks, long pants and long sleeves.
Repellent: Apply mosquito repellent to bare skin and clothing according to label instructions. Use mosquito netting to protect children younger than 2 months.
Homes: Keep mosquitoes out of the house by repairing broken screens on windows, doors, porches and patios.
Courtesy of the Florida Department of Health, Bureau of Environmental Public Health Medicine
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