BROOKSVILLE — Battling a threefold increase in the mosquito population in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Debby, Hernando County Mosquito Control launched a massive aerial assault Wednesday night in an effort to control the pesky bloodsuckers.
Aircraft under contract by the state Department of Agriculture sprayed more than 140,000 acres throughout the county with Dibrom, a low-level organophosphate insecticide designed to kill adult mosquitoes.
County mosquito control manager Gunagye Hu said the aerial application began after 8 p.m. and was concentrated mainly in rural areas of the county that are not easily served by spray trucks.
"There are many areas that still have standing water, and that has allowed mosquitoes to multiply beyond what we usually see this time of year," Hu said. "Our hope is that this will slow the reproductive rate until the water dries up."
Hu said the one-time spraying effort, which concentrated on areas such as Royal Highlands, Lake Lindsey, Masaryktown and Ridge Manor, was paid for by the state and will not come out of the county's $630,000 mosquito budget.
Designated wildlife habitats such as the Weekiwachee Preserve and the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area, as well as the Withlacoochee State, were not part of the spraying effort.
The announcement of the aerial spraying resulted in dozens of phone calls to Mosquito Control from residents who were worried that the chemicals might cause harm to domestic animals and wildlife such as bees, butterflies and fish.
Hu said that Dibrom has been in use for two decades and meets all federal pesticide safety guidelines, and that spraying at night would lessen the impact on insects that don't fly after dark.
Meanwhile, Hu suggests that residents continue to take precautions against mosquito bites, particularly during the dusk and dawn hours, when the insects are most active.
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or [email protected]