By Joy Crist, The Island Free Press
Dare County Mosquito Control has been working hard to curb the mosquito population after multiple days of heavy rains that resulted in standing water throughout Hatteras Island.
“With all the rain, the mosquitos have definitely increased, without a doubt,” said Mac Gray, Vector Control Supervisor with Dare County Mosquito Control. “We’ve increased the spraying as much as we can to get the numbers down.”
Dare County Mosquito Control helps residents and visitors on the Outer Banks by suppressing mosquito populations and thereby eliminating potential mosquito-borne diseases.
Mosquito Control uses a two-pronged approach when it comes to tackling a potential mosquito problem. Their spraying efforts address the existing mosquitos, and they also utilize a larvicide program to prevent larvae from hatching into a new wave of mosquitos.
Spraying is generally conducted at night during the most effective time for the majority of species, and to provide the least inconvenience for both residents and visitors.
However, the ability to spray – and the effectiveness of the spray – is very much dependent on the weather.
“The downside is that the rain and wind have kept us from spraying as much as we would like,” said Gray. “This year is exceptionally challenging due to the weather, but the good news is that we now have staff down there on Hatteras Island. Last year, our drivers came to [Hatteras Island] from Manteo, but this year, we have three drivers on the island, so they can judge the weather conditions better, and have more info to make their decisions.”
There are four drivers total that target four distinct Hatteras Island routes. One Manteo-based driver targets the Tri-villages area, while the three island-based drivers focus on Avon, Buxton, Frisco, and Hatteras village.
The drivers tend to spray the neighborhoods in their designated area in the evenings to achieve the maximum effect, and to avoid as many folks who are out and about as possible. 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.
Hatteras Islanders have likely already heard the familiar hum of the mosquito trucks in the evenings, and can help boost efforts by removing standing water in their own backyard whenever possible. Mosquitos breed in pockets of standing water, which can range from small flower pots and containers, to large and deep lake-like puddles.
Though the public should avoid close contact with spray trucks if possible, (both for pesticide and COVID-19 concerns), the primary pesticides used in the larval control operations have very low human/mammalian toxicity, and have been used in the county for many years. Most are very environmentally friendly, and are toxins produced by bacteria which are very specific to mosquitoes while in the larval stage.
“Basically, visitors and residents should not approach the trucks, as it slows the drivers down, and they have to stop the sprayer,” said Gray. “Also, with COVID-19, I have to try my best to keep my drivers safe.”
“But don’t be worried [if you come close to a truck],” he added. “Our drivers are great. They go through safety [training], and they cut the sprayer off if they see you. Also, it’s a pesticide, but it’s not as harmful as one would think. If you do get sprayed, it won’t kill you.”
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 Outer Banks whenever possible.
“Mother Nature is not playing nice this year at all,” said Gray, “and we may get more rain on Wednesday night and Thursday. But we hope Mother Nature gives us a little window so we can continue to do what we can.”