It’s been very buggy in Beaufort County recently — buggier than usual, since Hurricane Dorian swiped by last week.
In addition to the annual lovebug invasion plastering our cars with splattered bug particles — Hilton Head, Bluffton and Beaufort areas should expect to see increased mosquito populations in the next week, Beaufort County Mosquito Control said Tuesday.
On Monday, mosquito control officials received 36 complaints, which Hunt said is typical after a big storm — and he expects that number to rise in the next few days.
So why does it feel so itchy outside? A number of factors are to blame, starting with Hurricane Dorian.
Because of evacuations, Beaufort County hadn’t been able to do its usual aerial and ground insecticide sprays for more than 10 days. The Beaufort County Mosquito Patrol moved its helicopter and small plane out of the area last week.
During those 10 days, the Lowcountry has seen mosquito-multiplying weather conditions.
“High temperatures, rainfall and high tides drive high amounts of mosquitoes,” Hunt said. “I would speculate we will have more calls in the next 7-10 days, which is about the time it takes mosquitoes to complete their life cycle in the summer. The [higher] the temperature, the shorter the lifespan for mosquitoes.”
The Savannah-Hilton Head Airport recorded a sultry heat index of 111 degrees Monday. Tides around Beaufort, Bluffton and Hilton Head were unusually high, starting Labor Day weekend through the middle of last week. While Beaufort County didn’t get drenched as predicted during Dorian, we have seen several inches of rain in the past week.
High humidity doesn’t help, either, as mosquitoes prefer a dewy atmosphere.
However, for those of you itching for relief, there is hope in sight.
Hunt said control agents would start spraying from trucks Tuesday evening and from the air later this week. Ground sprays are done between 11 p.m. and 6:30 a.m.; aerial sprays are conducted between sunrise and 8:30 a.m.
Mosquitoes are most active one hour before and one hour after sunrise and sunset, so if you’re prone to bites, stay inside during those hours this week.
“It’s really important people make those requests because we have to justify it to the EPA every time we spray,” Hunt said. “Our No. 1 job is to protect humans, from both mosquitoes that are pests and mosquitoes that carry disease.”
On Tuesday, Beaufort County’s southern neighbor, Chatham County, Georgia, reported its first human case of West Nile virus this year, according to the Georgia Department of Health.
“Chatham County Mosquito Control first detected and reported West Nile Virus in a sample of local mosquitoes in July, and the virus quickly spread throughout the mosquito population across the county,” according to the department.
There have been no human cases of West Nile Virus in Beaufort County this year, according to S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. Three other cases have been reported in the state this year.
Lovebugs have also made a pestering appearance in the Lowcountry in the past week.
“Dorian might have shaken up the vegetation, but we see this every year at the beginning of September,” Hunt said of lovebug invasions.
Those black swarms of what look like two-headed bugs are in fact two insects mating while airborne, according to researchers at the University of Clemson.
Unlike the pesky mosquito, lovebugs don’t bite or cause diseases. They do, however, cause car damage if you’re not careful.
If those squishy lovebug remains soak in the sun for too long, they can damage automobile paint. They can also clog engines and cause them to overheat.
To avoid lovebug car damage, researchers recommend washing your car more often and cutting down on long drives between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. in September.
Lovebugs take their invasive flights in May and September and typically are around for about four weeks, according to University of Florida researchers.
Unfortunately, love bugs aren’t affected by the aerial sprays across Beaufort County, so those pests are likely here to stay through the month.