Mosquitoes can be an irritating and deadly problem
by Eric Johnson
With mosquitoes buzzing and reports of West Nile cases skyrocketing, many in Columbia County are wondering why more isn’t being done to take care of the mosquito problem. But according to Emergency and Operations Director Pam Tucker, the county simply has a different, less intrusive approach to mosquito control.
“Larvicide is our mosquito control program,” she says. “It’s the most cost-effective and eco-friendly method of mosquito control because it prevents the larvae from hatching into mosquitoes.”
The county spends between $3,000 and $5,000 a season for the larvicide.
Larvicide, which can also be purchased by the public in home and garden stores, comes in pellet and briquette form, while spraying, which is how Richmond County handles the problem, is less targeted and only kills what it touches, meaning it does little to control the next hatch. And that’s the thing about mosquitoes — they’re always hatching.
Eliminating mosquitoes isn’t simply a matter of getting rid of an irritant, however. Already this year, well over 2,500 confirmed human cases of West Nile virus have been reported in the U.S, and the mosquito season here lasts until the end of October.
Nationwide, the death toll from the disease is hovering around 120.
Last month, a North Augusta man became the first person in South Carolina to die from the virus, which is passed to humans by infected mosquitoes, which is why limiting the mosquito population is so critical. Though larviciding is effective, it can only do so much.
Here in the CSRA, the mosquito season has been worse than normal. Tucker says the county has received a total of 33 complaints so far this year. Last year, the total was 24.
Though the county has always used larvicide, it wasn’t until 2010 that the county formed its own integrated mosquito management team, which consists of individuals from the Environmental Health section of Public Health, Code Enforcement, the Water Utility Division, the Emergency Operations Division, Roads and Bridges and 3-1-1.
“Using 3-1-1 as the center control point for all the calls to come through, we’ve been able to find out that the overwhelming majority of mosquito complaints are because of neglected or abandoned swimming pools,” she says.
In fact, 18 of Columbia County’s 33 total complaints this year are because of abandoned or neglected pools.
“That is attributed to the number of foreclosures and the number of people who have left those homes,” she says. “There’s just nobody there to take care of the pools.”
Coastal areas with lots of swampy grass respond the best to general pesticides, Tucker says, but in a residential setting it’s not as effective.
“Spraying doesn’t give a false sense of security, necessarily, but it gives an unreasonable one,” she says. “Pesticides aren’t really effective, and you only kill what you hit. It won’t get in the backyard, and it raises environmental concerns for a lot of people.”
Though the mosquito team mostly uses the larvicide to treat county property like ponds and ditches, Tucker says that they’ll treat abandoned swimming pools when they find them.
“If we’ve got an abandoned property and the bank that took it over is in California — trust me, they’re not going to do anything,” she says. “So for public health purposes, we’ll toss them right into the pool.”
Though pools are the primary source of preventable mosquito breeding real estate, Tucker says everyone should take a quick walk around their home.
“Even a bottle cap that sits upside down and has some water can breed as many as 25 mosquitoes,” she says. “A bottle cap.”You Might Also Like: