By Joy Crist, Island Free Press
After a long weekend of showers and thunderstorms that brought approximately 5 inches of rain to Hatteras Island from Aug. 15 through 19, Dare County Mosquito Control is actively working to get a rising mosquito population under control.
Dare County Mosquito Control helps residents and visitors by suppressing mosquito populations and thereby eliminating potential mosquito-borne diseases.
The continual rain and standing water throughout Hatteras Island has caused a noticeable uptick in the mosquito population, but the Mosquito Control Department, which is part of Dare County Public Works, is working around the weather to address the problem.
As of Wednesday, Mosquito Control personnel were targeting areas of standing water in the tri-villages to stop mosquito larvae before they hatch. Mosquitos breed in pockets of standing water, which can range from small flower pots and containers, to large and deep puddles.
“Basically, this is normal procedure after a rain event that seems to be in isolated spots, and the whole tri-villages area is a big culprit right now,” says Mac Gray, Vector Control Supervisor. “Everything south of Oregon Inlet is elevated [when it comes to mosquitos], so we are spraying consistently across the county when Mother Nature allows.”
Dare County Mosquito Control is spraying when possible, but the issue is that they have to spray during a given timeframe to achieve the maximum effects. Mosquitos are most active in the evenings and the early morning hours, and spraying is not effective when it’s raining, or when there are high winds.
“Between 7:00 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. is our window to attack,” says Gray. “Mosquitos do bed down after a certain time… When their predators and food sources are bedding down, they are bedding down as well, so timing is critical.”
“We try to [spray] when mosquitos are out, and we also try to do it at a time when there’s not a lot of people out and about, and the majority of residents and visitors are back inside and at their homes,” says Public Works Director, Shanna Fullmer. She also notes that for the past few days, the localized flooding has been a problem when it comes to accessing certain hotspots along the island – especially when navigating the flooded roads in the dark.
“On Monday, we had a trash truck drive into a ditch because the water was so high that he couldn’t see the turn,” she says, “so we have to be cautious while there is still [standing water.]”
Despite these obstacles, however, Dare County Public Works and Mosquito Control have a game plan to continue to address the rise in mosquitos, even as more rainfall looms in the forecast over the next few days. Though spraying for mosquitos typically doesn’t occur over the weekend, Gray says that the Mosquito Control Dept. will continually spray whenever they can.
“If people hear the truck or see the truck, don’t be scared – there’s a lot of science that goes into spraying,” says Gray. “Even so, please get out of the way, and give us about 10-15 minutes to do what we need to do.”
Per Dare County, the primary pesticides used in the larval control operations have very low human/mammalian toxicity. Most are very environmentally friendly, and are toxins produced by bacteria which are very specific to mosquitoes while in the larval stage. The pesticides used to control the adult mosquitoes also have very low human/mammalian toxicity, and have been used for many years. Most are “synthetic pyrethroids,” which are man-made pesticides that mimic a natural product made from chrysanthemum plants.
In addition to the county efforts to mitigate the mosquito population, there are also precautions everyone can take to help protect from mosquito-borne diseases. These guidelines include the following:
- Avoid outdoor activity during dawn and dusk, when mosquito activity is high.
- Cover exposed areas of skin with long pants, loose-fitting long-sleeved shirts, shoes, and hats.
- Use mosquito repellents containing DEET.
- When using DEET products, follow the instructions and be especially careful when applying to children.
- Keep all window screens in good repair to prevent mosquitoes from entering your home.
- Avoid outdoor activity in areas known to have high mosquito activity.
- Residents with a particularly bad mosquito infestation in their neighborhood can also make a service request for Dare County Mosquito Control to come out and address their area, via an online form found here: https://www.darenc.com/departments/public-works/mosquito-control.
In the meantime, Dare County Mosquito Control will continue their efforts to nip a rising mosquito population in the bud, and will continue spraying throughout the island, and the county.
“We are doing the best we can, but it’s not an overnight fix,” says Gray. “It will take time to get it under control, but we will… and winter will be here soon.”