Hur­ri­cane’s re­lent­less rain means mos­qui­toes on the way

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Martin E. Co­mas Staff Writer

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

eggs.

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.

CASSIE ARM­STRONG/STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

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.

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