Mosquito season off to 'mild' start in Beaufort County

cconley@islandpacket.comJuly 29, 2013 

Despite warm, wet weather that can promote insect growth, mosquito populations have remained in check this summer in Beaufort County.

Since early March, the county has received 268 mosquito-related complaints from residents, a figure county officials say is close to the historical average through July.

"So far, I would describe the current mosquito season as mild to average compared to recent years," said Gregg Hunt, director of the county's mosquito-control unit.

That's not to say conditions won't change.

Hunt says complaints are starting to pick up and likely will continue to rise through the late summer and early fall.

Meanwhile, weather and tidal conditions, which influence the size of local insect populations, remain difficult to predict. For instance, although the summer has been much wetter than usual, preceding months of drought meant the ground could absorb most of that rain quickly.

"What we have seen historically is, if there is a tide greater than eight feet, it floods the tidal flat, and salt-marsh mosquito eggs can lay dormant until they have the right conditions," he said, adding that tides have been "average" so far this year.

Other parts of the state, including Horry County, have experienced a surge in mosquito complaints this year. According to The (Myrtle Beach) Sun News, residents in that county have made more than 600 mosquito complaints, a 50 percent increase compared to last year.

"We see that there's no end in sight for the next couple of months," Horry County spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier said.

Beaufort County mosquito control crews began treating its 19,500 catch basins for mosquitoes in April. Soon afterward, it sprayed for the pests from trucks and from a twin-engine turboprop OV-10 Bronco.

"We can treat up to four nights per week using the spray truck and aircraft, but again it gets back to what is the frequency of the complaints," Hunt said, adding that the unit has been spraying countywide about twice a week.

Hunt said the county acquired the plane in 2010 for $2,400 from the federal government, which at the time was unloading 20 of the Vietnam War-era planes.

In all, the county spends about $1.3 million a year on mosquito control. The program mainly targets adult mosquitoes, some of which can spread mosquito-borne diseases.

Jim Beasley, spokesman for the S.C. Department of Environmental Control, says there have been no cases of West Nile virus in humans or animals in South Carolina this year. In 2012, 41 confirmed human cases of West Nile were reported statewide, but none were in Beaufort County.

However, a mosquito pool and a bird found dead in Beaufort County tested positive for the virus last year.

Hunt said residents can help keep mosquito populations in check by removing standing water from gutters, old tires and other potential breeding grounds.

Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/IPBG_Casey.

Related content:

Beaufort County, USCB partner on mosquito study, April 20, 2013

County hopes to put the bite on West Nile, Sept. 2, 2012

West Nile virus found in mosquitoes in Beaufort, July 31, 2012

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