Mosquito Season Post-Flooding in Richland County
The 2015 mosquito season should have been over by October, but the historic flooding caused a late season boom in the mosquito population. Now entering the spring of 2016, standing water from the flood and recent rains are impacting the mosquito population in Richland County yet again.
Every spring, mosquitoes return to South Carolina in force, driving residents to invest in bug spray or just stay inside. The mosquito season tends to start whenever spring does and wanes by mid- to late-October. This past year though, historic flooding changed that. The warm and wet climate made an ideal breeding habitat for a new round of aggressive mosquitoes. Cooper McKim spoke with Tammy Brewer, the head of Richland County's Vector Control program. Vector Control is devoted to managing the mosquito population through surveillance, education, and control.
Soon after the floods in October, residents all over Richland County were calling the program to complain of plentiful and highly aggressive mosquitoes. It was impacting outdoor workers trying to do their jobs, as well as other residents spending time outside. Brewer went to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to find a solution.
Richland County's Vector Control program is responsible for education, surveillance of diseases, and mosquito control. Surveillance is intended to determine how many and what kind of mosquitoes are in the county. The program does this through light traps and rainfall gauges in 54 control areas. They also monitor dead birds for disease analysis with the help of the Department of Health and Environmental Control's Bureau of Laboratories. Vector Control manages the mosquito population through larviciding and adulticiding. The former focuses on eliminating mosquitoes in the larval stages, while the latter uses spraying to get rid of adult mosquitoes.
On November 6 of 2015, Richland County deployed planes to spray and kill as many mosquitoes as possible. Vector Control reports that planes are a more efficient solution than trucks which can't disperse the chemical spray as evenly.
Teresa Foo, a Medical Consultant with the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), says mosquitoes are more than a nuisance. Certain types can carry serious diseases like West Nile Virus, Zika, Dengue, and Malaria. Mosquitos become infected when they feed on something with the virus, like a bird or human. In the past, the disease has stemmed from someone infected outside of the United States and returning. In recent years, there's been an average of seven cases per year of West Nile Virus, with a recent increase since 2012. There have been no cases of Zika thus far.
DHEC says getting infected is not likely, but it is possible. There are over 60 types of mosquito in South Carolina, some of which could theoretically carry the diseases listed above.
As spring returns, Vector Control prepares for a new mosquito season. Brewer has announced there will once again be county-wide spraying from trucks. They are currently communicating with anyone in the area who might have concerns with chemical spray such as farmers, beekeepers, or anyone with sensitivities.
Rudy Mancke is a naturalist and adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina. He also hosts 'Nature Notes' here at South Carolina Public Radio. Cooper spoke with Mancke about what makes mosquitoes so compelling.
What makes mosquitoes so interesting?
There are typically over 60 species of mosquito in South Carolina. What fosters this diversity?
What's the ideal climate for mosquitoes?