Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Mosquito onslaught expected after heavy rains in South Florida

There goes the rain, and here come the mosquitoes.

After the heavy rains of last week, mosquito control officials say we could see a major assault by the stinging insects in the next few days, as receding flood waters allow long-dormant eggs to hatch.

Trucks worked overtime over the weekend spraying insecticide in ditches, swales and other wet sites in southern Broward County, where water had spread to areas that hadn't been saturated in years.

"We're expecting a big hatchout with all this rainfall," said Joseph Marhefka, Broward County's mosquito control director. "We're seeing a lot of larvae in the water. Every place we go there's larvae."

The mosquito species of greatest concern are a class called floodwater mosquitoes. In this species, the female lays eggs on dry or damp ground and they lay dormant, sometimes for years, until the ground is flooded. Once the water recedes ? as it has done in South Florida with the reduction in rain in the past few days ? they hatch.

Trucks over the weekend sprayed Dania Beach, Hollywood, Pembroke Pines, Miramar, Davie and Fort Lauderdale, Marhefka said. Once finished, the trucks are to be deployed elsewhere in the county with standing water.

The county may also send up its twin-engine airplane for aerial spraying this week, depending on how bad it gets. While the spray trucks kill the larvae, aerial spraying kills the adults.

To avoid mosquito bites, experts advise eliminating standing water on your property, wearing light-colored clothing and staying indoors at dusk and dawn.

In Palm Beach County, meanwhile, complaints have been coming in of heavy infestations in northwestern neighborhoods, bordering the Everglades.

The county was finally able to send its mosquito-spraying helicopter aloft for the first time in weeks Friday. During thunderstorms it couldn't fly, and during periods of calm that followed, the air was too still to bring the insecticide close enough to the ground, making aerial spraying useless, said Gary Goode, an entomologist and environmental analyst with Palm Beach County Mosquito Control.

Goode said the impact of the rain on mosquito populations hasn't shown up yet "but it starts to ramp up slowly. There's still a lot of water on the ground."

In Miami-Dade County, mosquito control operations manager Chalmers Vasquez said, "We'll see an increase in mosquitoes, maybe by next week, or we may see some this week."

The county is spraying daily, particularly in the southern end between Everglades and Biscayne national parks, both major breeding grounds. "Those are our big suppliers of mosquitoes," he said.

A few urban areas also serve as breeding grounds, including the area around Florida International University's North Miami campus, Greynolds Park and Key Biscayne. But in addition to the rains, a lot depends on the direction of the wind, and if winds blow east from the Everglades, the county is likely to see more mosquitoes, he said. or 954-356-4535


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