Mosquito populations spike after Irma, flooding

- If you've noticed a few extra bug bites lately, you're not alone. Mosquito counts are doubling, even tripling in some areas after Hurricane Irma, forcing mosquito control crews to work night and day to bring them back down.

Mosquito control officials say they expected this spike in population. They stocked up on supplies as soon as they knew Irma was coming.

Wednesday, in the woods near Cockroach Bay, you might've mistaken a man wearing a helmet on an ATV as someone out for a joyride. He was actually a Hillsborough County Mosquito Control employee, checking for larvae in ponds and standing water.

He's one of many employees working by ground or air to knock down the mosquito population that's grown since the storm.

"What we have here is a Psorphora columbiae," said Leonard Burns, Surveillance Manager with Hillsborough County Mosquito Control, as he showed us some mosquitoes collected from traps. "It's a floodwater mosquito and the characteristics of this mosquito are the dots in the front of the leg."

As soon as Irma moved out, surveillance crews moved in, checking for standing water and killing mosquito larvae. But, as expected, the buzzing picked up last weekend and so did call volume by about 50 percent.

"We knew we were going to be busy," said Donnie Hayes, Director of Hillsborough County Mosquito Control. "We've definitely noticed an increase in the adult mosquito population this week. Post-storm, we've treated roughly 60,000 acres by air treating the adult mosquitoes and right around 45,000 acres by ground."

Here's an idea of what they're dealing with. In Gibsonton last week, they counted 3,000 of the Culex nigripalpus, which is another floodwater mosquito, in their trap. This week, it's tripled to more than 9,000. In Apollo Beach, the number went from 546 to more than 4,000.

It's a similar scenario in Polk County where they're reporting double, and even in triple, counts in some areas.

A plane requested from FEMA will assist in spraying more than 300,000 acres on top of what the county is handling with its helicopter and trucks.

In Hernando County, stunning photos from Mosquito Control show a mountain of mosquitoes. A trap was set Friday in the Ridge Manor Area from 3 p.m. to 7 a.m. This time of year, they might collect 500. But it brought in more 26,000 mosquitoes of 10 different species.

"They're ugly. Mosquitoes are ugly," Said Mike McGoldrick of Sun City Center.

There is light at the end of the tunnel. By next week, the majority of post-Irma mosquito treatment should be wrapping up, meaning fewer of those itchy bites.

"We could do without them but unfortunately, they're part of the area that we live in," McGoldrick said.

Mosquito control officials can't say it enough - check and re-check your yards for any standing water. It makes their jobs easier and it makes your family less likely to be bitten. Even something as tiny as a bottle cap can become a breeding ground.

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