Beaufort County’s aircraft used to combat mosquito are grounded, but not because of the recent stormy weather.
A fixed-wing airplane and a helicopter used to spray the bugs are out of service, Beaufort County Mosquito Control director Gregg Hunt said Tuesday. The helicopter is having new GPS equipment tested and the plane has an electrical issue, Hunt said.
In response, the department has relied on ground treatment with its truck fleet.
“One part of the program supplements the other,” Hunt said. “When one is not readily available because of maintenance or equipment failure, we try to make it up with another part of our program.”
The county has seven, half-ton Ford and Chevy trucks capable of spraying for mosquitoes. And up to six of those can be deployed each night.
Six trucks sprayed for consecutive nights earlier this month on Hilton Head Island, the only place in the county where cases of West Nile virus have been confirmed this year. One person, one bird and eight groups of mosquitoes have tested positive for the virus this year, all on the island. No positive tests have occurred since July 7.
“We may have had the opportunity to reduce the risk of West Nile among residents and visitors,” Hunt said. “We may have succeeded, but I can’t make predictions.”
The county has received 52 mosquito complaints this month, about half as many as the same month a year ago.
Trucks spray from 11 p.m. until 6 a.m. When operational, the aircraft spray for a couple of hours on weekday mornings, depending on the size of the targeted area.
Hunt couldn’t say when the aircraft — an OV-10 Bronco —would return but that a specialist will visit later in the week to work on it.
In addition to common-sense mosquito control and protection measures, the state asks residents to take photos of dead birds and report them to Beaufort County Mosquito Control or the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.