Hurricane’s relentless rain means mosquitoes on the way
Add blood-sucking mosquitoes to the list of things Central Floridians have to worry about after Hurricane Irma, in addition to the loss of power, restocking the refrigerator and clearing storm debris.
The massive amounts of rain Irma dumped on the region left standing water just about everywhere, including in birdbaths, gutters, backyard containers, ditches and even bottle caps — perfect places for mosquitoes to lay their
Counties are ramping up mosquito-control efforts that will continue for the next several weeks.
“We’re treating everything we can,” said Kelly Deutsch, manager for Orange County’s mosquitocontrol division.
County workers have started applying a larvicide in the form of granules — similar in appearance to Grape Nuts cereal — in areas with standing water, such as swamps, ditches and ponds. The insecticides kill the larvae before they mature into adult mosquitoes within five to 14 days and fly off to bite someone.
Crews are focusing on areas near Apopka, Wedgefield and Bithlo that regularly collect large amounts of standing stormwater.
Irma was particularly troublesome because it was a widespread, slow-moving storm that dumped an enormous amount of rain throughout the region, officials said.
That’s why state health officials are urging residents to drain water from garbage cans, house gutters, pool covers, flower pots or any other container where water has collected. They also are urging that homeowners keep swimming-pool pumps running and appropriately chlorinated. Boats should be protected from rain with tarps that don’t accumulate water.
In Seminole — where portions of the county received nearly 20 inches of rain — crews began spraying larvicide Wednesday in areas with pockets of standing water. However, they are waiting for the rising water levels along the Little Wekiva, Wekiva and St. Johns rivers to wane before spraying along those spots.
“Right now, the creeks and canals and ditches are flooding so fast that we can’t apply the larvicide,” said Gloria Eby, principal scientist and mosquito-control director for Seminole County.
County officials also will start setting traps in the coming days to gauge the number of mosquitoes. Because of Irma, they expect to capture more than 2,000 of the flying creatures compared to the normal 200. For example, crews captured more than 2,000 last year after Hurricane Matthew.
“We just got our mosquito population under control, and now we have the aftermath of Irma to deal with,” Eby said.
In Lake County, Craig Scott, program manager for the county’s mosquito and aquatic plant management, said crews will start setting traps today.
“We will start doing our inspections in flooded areas,” Scott said. “As we find larvae, we’ll start treating those areas.”
However, Lake crews will wait before spraying insecticides with blowers until power is restored and residents are able to close their windows, Scott said.
“So many people are without power, there’s no sense doing it now,” Scott said. “It’s takes about five to seven days for the larva stage. … And the best time to do that is when they are in the larva stage in the water.”
In Osceola County, crews will monitor traps as they have done before Irma, officials said.
“Right now, we’re continuing with our normal operations,” said Katie Condra, with Osceola mosquito control. “If trap counts are high, we’ll service those areas.”
Even so, county officials said it’s important that residents eliminate any standing water near their homes to prevent mosquito populations from growing.
“We’re getting that message out to drain and cover,” Eby said.
Homeowners are urged to keep swimming-pool pumps running and water chlorinated as Central Florida faces a mosquito battle in the wake of Hurricane Irma.