Record rainfall fuels skeeter tsunami locally
Published: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 at 6:46 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 at 6:46 p.m.
Alachua County saw a nearly tenfold increase in mosquitoes between June and the end of July, according to the Alachua County Health Department.
The rainfall in July — which marked a record 16.65 inches, nearly three times the normal level — drove up the mosquito population. By the end of July, traps around Alachua County averaged about 450 mosquitoes per week, compared with an average of about 50 in June, said Anthony Dennis, the environmental health director for the Alachua County Health Department.
The number of mosquitoes has started to drop in August, with traps containing about 350 a week, Dennis added.
The mosquitoes are also transferring disease — namely eastern equine encephalitis, also known as triple E, and West Nile virus — to sentinel chickens, Dennis said.
He added that triple E has been detected in horses in the surrounding counties of Bradford, Gilchrist, Marion and Levy.
Dennis said that West Nile virus typically doesn't start until the end of the summer.
"We've still got a long way to go," he said. "It's still summertime; it's still mosquito season until we have the first freeze, which is really the only thing that knocks them down."
Dennis said the number of mosquitoes is still not as bad as it was last year, when drought followed by tropical storms created "the perfect storm" for mosquito breeding that didn't let up until mid-October.
Tropical Storm Debby last year also unleashed the gallinipper, a big mosquito with a stinging bite, but Dennis said they have seen few gallinippers this year. The gallinipper does not transmit diseases, he added.
Dennis said mosquitoes are fairly predictable because they follow rainfall patterns.
In any case, "We're just taking the opportunity to tell people to not let their guard down, to take precautions," he said. "The best way to avoid getting a disease is not getting bit."
Precautions include draining still water from outdoor places such as garbage cans and other open containers, wearing repellent and long sleeves, and making sure swimming pools are properly treated.
Karen St. Pierre, the interim entomologist with the city of Gainesville's mosquito control operation, said the city began weekly spraying in Gainesville's 16 zones on July 29, when the adult mosquito population showed signs of increasing based on their trap counts.
Even though the city does a year-round larviciding in 350 sites throughout the city to prevent mosquitoes, adult mosquitoes fly into the city from surrounding areas, since Alachua County does not spray, St. Pierre said.
She added that the city's southeast neighborhoods tend to be more prone to high mosquito counts because some of them are close to Paynes Prairie.
However, people all over the city should take appropriate precautions, she said.
"Mosquito control begins in your own backyard," St. Pierre said, adding that people should empty out all open containers that collect even minimal rainfall.
"It only takes a couple of tablespoons" to breed mosquitoes, she said.
Contact Kristine Crane at 338-3119 or email@example.com.