This summer’s heavy rains have kept local mosquito control crews busy in their efforts to control the blood-sucking insects.
“I have been spraying every night,” Calhoun County Mosquito Control Supervisor Ron Gibson said. “This is one of our worst years since 2001 and 2002, when we also had a lot of rain.”
Mosquitoes go from egg, larvae, pupae to adult typically in two weeks, and the first three stages require water. With the increased likelihood of standing water now, the insects can go through their life cycle in as little as four days, depending on conditions and species.
Mosquito season generally runs from March until the first frost of the year, which is typically October.
Orangeburg County Mosquito Control Supervisor Odell Wadell said the county has received an average of 30 calls a day related to mosquito concerns.
“With the amount of rain we have been receiving, a lot of areas retain water and people have puddles in their yards,” Wadell said.
Wadell said the county has four trucks that work the mosquito patrol. Two of the trucks spray insecticide and two are used for ditch treatment and the placement of granules that kill mosquito larvae.
During the daytime hours, Wadell said granules are placed in still water and ditches throughout the county. The granules help control mosquitoes up to 30 days.
“If the water is flowing, we don’t want to treat it because we don’t want the water flowing out of the area,” Wadell said.
The county sprays insecticide during the evening, typically between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. when fewer people are out and the spray is more effective.
Wadell said spraying is done when winds are low and temperatures are below 89 degrees. The insecticide is most effective with temperatures under 80 degrees.
The mosquito spraying cycle rotation is about a week and a half throughout the county.
“The problem is getting out. When it is raining, we cannot go out,” Wadell said, noting rain can wash away the chemicals and make them less effective.
“If it is not raining, they try to get out there. If it is raining when they get out there they will wait and may try again later,” he said.
Orangeburg County Administrator Harold Young said the county has about $62,909 budgeted toward the mosquito program for the year.
“We are canvassing the area and are doing the best we can,” Young said, noting the county also has a vacuum truck that is designed to clean out county-maintained ditches and to eliminate standing water.
“With the amount of rain we are getting, some rain has washed debris out of the woods and into the ditches. That has been causing problems,” he said. “We have been fighting these ditches and we are asking the community to be patient with us. This is more rain we have ever seen in a long, long time. Only the good Lord can control that.”
In Calhoun County, Gibson said he’s received an average about three or five mosquito complaint calls a day over the last several weeks.
The lower part of the county around Cameron, up to Lake Marion and around Banks Lane near the Congaree River are among the worst areas for mosquitoes this summer, he said.
Calhoun County receives about $16,000 annually to fund the mosquito program.
“If they are calling for rain, we won’t spray because it is a waste of time,” he said. “We don’t want to be out there spraying just to be spraying.”
In addition, Gibson said generally the same area will be sprayed once every two weeks unless the area warrants additional spraying.
“Normally you don’t want to overkill and put too much chemical out in the same area,” Gibson said. “Mosquitoes will become immune to the chemical you are using and you have to space it out some.”
It is the first year county governments have been responsible for oversight of the mosquito control program. The program previously had been handled by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
DHEC spokesman Jim Beasley said while the department has turned over the mosquito program to individual counties, it does continue to track the disease impacts of the insects.
“To date, we have not confirmed the presence of West Nile virus in any humans or animals in South Carolina,” he said.
Beasley said there has been one confirmed case and three suspected cases of eastern equine encephalitis this year. They were reported in Sumter, Colleton and Horry counties.
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