Charleston County battling huge mosquito populations this year
An unseasonably mild winter came with a price, and Lowcountry residents are paying it in mosquito bites.
For help getting rid of mosquitoes, or to ask that your property not be sprayed, call Charleston County’s Mosquito Control Program at 202-7880.
Charleston County Mosquito Control Program officials say they are working around the clock to fight one of the area’s largest mosquito populations in recent memory.
The county hit the mosquito-breeding trifecta this year, Mosquito Control Superintendent Donna Odom said. “We basically didn’t have a winter, and we’ve had hard rains and high tides,” which made conditions perfect for early mosquito breeding.
And the weekend’s cool weather isn’t going to help matters, she said. It simply won’t be cool long enough to slow down the mosquitoes’ growth.
The Lowcountry is known for mosquitoes, she said, but the problem started early this year. In March, the county received 400 phone calls from residents asking for help to rid them of mosquito problems. In March 2011 the county received 23 such calls, Odom said.
Randy Miller, the county’s source reduction crew supervisor, goes out daily with crews to kill the pests in the larval phase. Crews do that by finding and chemically treating pools of standing water.
Miller said he’s been working at the county for 19 years, and this year “there are more than I’ve seen for a long time.”
Odom said the county in March sprayed 95,000 acres from the ground, and another 14,000 from the air. “That is unprecedented at this time of year,” she said. “We’re working full-force like it was the middle of summer.”
Residents can help by making sure their yards are free of any standing water, which gives mosquitoes a place to breed. It takes very little water to provide a breeding ground, she said. “I’ve seen mosquito larva on a magnolia leaf.”
County residents who want help with mosquito problems simply have to call the county, she said. And people who don’t want their yards sprayed, or want to be notified when the county will spray their neighborhoods, also should call the county.
Beekeepers, organic farmers and people with allergies often don’t want their yards and farms sprayed with chemicals, she said.
Although residents can call the county for relief, many are taking matters into their own hands and purchasing backyard foggers and other products at hardware and garden stores.
Matt Metz, who manages Charleston Hardware, his family’s business on Wappoo Road in West Ashley, said he is selling a lot of such products. “It’s just crazy,” he said. “It’s an early spring, I think that’s the deal.”
Many of his customers are purchasing a product called Cutter Backyard Bug Control, which they can hook up to a hose. It sells for $14.99 per bottle, he said.
Usually two cases of the spray last about three weeks, he said. “But I’m going through that in about three days.”
Odom warned residents not to expect things to get better anytime soon. “If we continue to have a lot of rain through the spring, we could be in for a couple months of bad mosquitoes,” she said. “It’s all weather-contingent, but we’ll continue to do what we’re doing.”
Reach Diane Knich on Twitter @dianeknich or at 937-5491.