The mild winter and unusually warm spring have produced a bounty of two Lowcountry irritants: pollen and mosquitoes.
Experts in combating both scourges on Beaufort County residents are reporting longer and more intense sneezing and itching.
ATYPICAL MOSQUITO SEASON
The county's Mosquito Control Department typically starts spraying the insects in mid-April, but it has already detected the pests hatching. The department has sprayed insecticides in various areas five times in the past two weeks and could begin aerial spraying today.
The office has received more than 30 complaints, primarily in Bluffton and on St. Helena Island, department director Gregg Hunt said.
"Our surveillance has showed mosquitoes originating in both fresh and salt water," he said. "It is atypical for mosquito season."
Residents can take some solace from the fact that an earlier mosquito season doesn't necessarily mean a worse one, according to Hunt. A number of factors, such as rainfall and tides, could affect possible breeding grounds and the population.
Removing standing water in pet dishes, bird baths or other outdoor containers is the best way to limit the invasion, S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control spokesman Adam Myrick said.
ALLERGIES STRIKE HARD
Along with more mosquitoes, the warm winter could bring a longer, more intense allergy season, Beaufort allergist Dr. Thomas Beller says.
"This year has certainly been busier than last already," Beller said. "Last winter was longer, so allergy season was shorter."
This year's shorter, warmer winter caused plants to bloom earlier and longer, prolonging the sneezing season.
Tree pollen levels for most of March have been "high" or "very high," according to the Weather Channel's website. Pollen from birch, oak and cedar trees is peaking.
The average high temperature for this winter, 69.3 degrees, was the second warmest in 76 years, Wes Tyler of the S.C. State Climatology Office said.
"Is it unprecedented? No." Tyler said. "But it is unusual."
- Go to www.pollen.com to find a pollen forecast for the area