Despite a lack of rainfall - or, more appropriately, because of it - the Lee County Mosquito Control District has been busy the last several weeks.
"Because we're having a drought everywhere in the south, the coastal areas are experiencing higher than normal numbers of mosquitos, at least for the past few years," Shelly Redovan, the district's deputy director, said Friday.
May through October is considered the "heart" of mosquito season.
Redovan explained that there are two types of mosquitos that the district deals with. Freshwater mosquitos require standing water to lay their eggs. If the amount of rainfall does not allow for water to stand for several days, the population is essentially kept in check.
The salt marsh mosquito, however, deposits its eggs in the ground, and as the tide comes in, the eggs hatch. Redovan said the drought is providing the salt marsh mosquitos with more ground cover than normal to lay their eggs, thus creating more area for the district to cover in fighting them.
"So it gives us a little more of a battle," she said, adding that the county is "having a large hatch-off right now from the high tide" last week.
For a daily update on local mosquito levels, visit www.cape-coral-daily-breeze.com . Click on the weather forecast button, which may be found at the upper right of the home page, then click on the blue "mosquito activity" link. The direct link also may be found here under "links."
The coastal areas experience the worst of the salt marsh mosquito. In Lee County, some regions currently under attack are Pine Island, the south and southwest sections of Cape Coral, Bonita Springs, the Iona area and Sanibel.
Redovan explained that the district kills the mosquito eggs and larvae in the water or by air. For adult mosquitos, it uses spray planes and helicopters.
In May 2010, the district recorded that no acres were sprayed by aircraft for adult mosquitos, compared to 135,000 acres for May of this year. There were 11,481 total acres treated in June of last year, compared to 20,100 acres on Thursday night alone.
Total acreage for this month was unavailable Friday.
"There's a lot of work going on along the coastal section of the Cape," Redovan said.
The district had tentative plans Friday night to spray the lower half of Pine Island and the southern portions of the Cape. The planes were out last week, and the trucks had been out this week treating the problem on the ground.
"Crews are working all through the week, but evidently there's some areas that have gotten away from us," she said, adding that the "bugs are moving from the coastal areas into the residential areas."
The district has a couple of methods for checking on mosquito levels and determining the appropriate type of treatment. Inspectors monitor certain areas on the ground, while light traps are checked weekly for the insects.
There are also nearly 50 trucks with funnels attached to them that drive designated three-mile stretches and collect the bugs. The mosquitos caught are brought back and counted to monitor numbers and identify increases.
"So we know what the mosquito activity is in an area," Redovan said.
Resident complaints are another indicator of a problem.
Last month, the Lee County Mosquito Control District recorded the highest number of calls for service since the district started keeping records more than 20 years ago. There were 1,693 calls for mosquito treatments in May.
In May 2010, there were 167 calls for service.
According to Redovan, the district recorded 216 calls in June of last year. As of noon Friday, there had been 739 calls for service for this month.
"So people are being bothered by mosquitos," she said. "They are calling in."
Though there is little people can do to curb the reproduction of salt water mosquitos, there are measures that can taken for freshwater mosquitos.
"Make sure your gutters are clean," Redovan said.
The water in bird baths or anything that holds water should be flushed out every three days or so. Plants that collect water, like bromelids, should also be cleared out every few days. Products are available for these plant types.
"Mainly anything that can hold water," Redovan said.
For those who use a rain barrel to collect rain for watering gardens and such, cover the barrel with a solid cover or simply cover the barrel with a screen.
"That will help prevent them from raising their own mosquitos," she said.
As mosquito season wears on, the district is asking that residents be patient. Redovan explained that if a series of high tides come in each day, the district has to wait a few days before treating the area because each day produces new hatchlings as the water soaks new ground.
She added that treatments will continue despite budget cutbacks.
"We have not cut back on treatment," Redovan said. "That part of our program has not been touched."
For a daily update on local mosquito levels, check the Cape Coral Breeze online at: www.cape-coral-daily-breeze.com. Click on the weather forecast button in the upper right hand corner of the home page, then click on the blue "mosquito activity" link.
Contact the Lee County Mosquito Control District at 694-2174.