In warm weather, where there’s water, there are mosquitoes. Where there’s a drenching, like the one Hurricane Ian caused, there’ll be an invasion of mosquitoes. It’s been delayed by a week of cool nights. But with the return of hot days and warm nights, the pests are expected to swarm in force, and attack, if not countered.
To prevent that, the East Flagler Mosquito Control District, Flagler County Emergency Management and the state Agriculture Environmental Service, a division of the Department of Agriculture, are coordinating a ground and air spraying assault on most areas of the county, where ground water still stagnates in many places. The district’s trucks will start spraying this week.
Up to three planes sent by the state will fly and spray early next week, mostly at night. But you’ll hear them: they’ll fly below 500 feet, and will be noisy. They’ll be stationed at the Flagler County airport. The district could use its own helicopter, but planes can do the job faster and cover a broader area.
Instead of spraying 18,000 to 24,000 acres as in a normal period, the planes will extend the spraying to 180,000 acres, including agricultural areas to the west, Mark Positano, the East Flagler Mosquito Control District’s director, said today. “We’re going to have to treat a huge area to keep them from migrating where the human population is,” he said of mosquitos, as floodwater mosquitos can fly up to 10 miles in a night if the wind is right: they hop on to a wind current as onto a highway.
“Most species of mosquitoes are active from sunset to sunrise, and this is when Mosquito Control conducts spray operations,” Positano said. “Since the mosquitoes must be actively flying to come in contact with the sprayed pesticides, we cannot spray when conditions are too windy, it’s raining, and also when temperatures are too low for mosquitoes to be active.”
Mosquitoes are a blight in part because they’re very resilient and fertile. A female mosquito will lay up to 200 eggs. It’ll do so anywhere there’s standing water. The eggs, which look like tiny, cigar-shaped black turds, can survive for months until conditions are ripe for larvae to hatch–once the water level rises enough to cover the eggs. The 10 to 11 inches of rain during Ian’s passage lifted water levels across the county, potentially unleashing swarms ready to hatch for months. The thing will go through a larval then pupa stage before a mosquito emerges from the water, ready to hunt for blood.
Since most of the rain that flooded the interior of Flagler County fell on September 29, Positano is estimating a 14-day span between the trigger and the emergence of the mosquitos.
“Mosquito Control routinely treats by air using a helicopter and has done so for over thirty years. The state assistance through FEMA will allow for several planes to spray large parts of the County over a couple nights,” he said. But trucks will begin spraying at ground level starting this week. The spraying is done typically between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Last week the county’s Emergency Operations Center requested Mosquito District assistance with aerial reconnaissance of flooding on the west side of the county. County public works joined emergency management and Mosquito staff to find the low-lying areas between U.S. 1 and Daytona North flooded, along with several roads in Daytona North–all turned mosquito reeding grounds. The flight was documented in the following pictures by the district: