City crews treat problematic areas ahead of mosquito season

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - As summer approaches, so do more of those pesky mosquitoes, and now is the time mosquito control crews are being proactive about preventing major outbreaks.

City of Columbia mosquito control crews say cooler than usual overnight temperatures have slightly delayed when we see the season pick up. They say there typically needs to be seven straight days of overnight temperatures above 60 to 65 degrees for mosquitoes to actively breed.

However, it's likely you'll still see crews treating areas throughout the city. "Because the city is a more urbanized area, we look at getting out at problem areas and eliminating them," said Larry McCall, the City of Columbia's Deputy Housing Official.

McCall says the city is split up into 17 "vectors" and runs from Dutch Fork to the end of Leesburg Road. In 2004, he says the city stopped actively spraying to kill adult mosquitoes, so they work early to get to the heart of the problem before they hatch.

"We try to catch them in the second cycle, which is when they become a larvae," said Antoine Williams with the city's mosquito control crew. "Then we treat the area using larvicide pellets and place them every 20 feet apart."

In addition to treating problem areas with standing water, they also do what's called source reduction. "Mosquitoes have a tendency to hide in the overgrowth, and if you eliminate the overgrowth it eliminates a breeding site for them and a harboring site for them," said Mccall.

Williams says they use a backpack sprayer called the SR-450 when it comes to treating grassy areas where rain can create additional breeding sites. "It releases granules into the grassy areas so that when rain and water settles in the grassy areas, we can use the larvicide pellets and it soaks down into the soil and kills the larvae," added Williams.

City crews say the larvicides are only effective for up to 30 days, and while city crews say they try to keep a treatment rotation, they also rely on homeowners to be proactive. "Clean your gutters, cut your grass, make sure you have no standing water," said McCall. "They can breed in tree holes, kids toys in the yard, tires in the yard," added Williams. "Also mosquitoes can breed in a cap full of water, so anything that holds water can breed mosquitoes."

In 2012, there were more human cases of West Nile Virus than ever before in the Palmetto State. An Aiken man died from the disease, and there were 15 human cases reported by the end of August alone.

While DHEC officials say they can't predict how this season will be, they encourage everyone to remember the 4 D's: Deet, Dress, Dawn & Dusk, and Drain. Health officials say apply repellent, wear clothes that cover more skin, stay inside at dawn and dusk and drain standing water.