Tropical Storm Fay didn't leave devastation in Hernando County, but the storm and summer rains have left a legacy: mosquitoes.
"The mosquito situation is bad compared with last year," said Dr. Guangye Hu, the entomologist who is director of county mosquito control. "Rain by Fay flooded some rural areas," he pointed out, and mosquito eggs hatch in moist environments.
Winter's dry weather kept the eggs in dormancy. They can exist as long as a year before hatching if they've been laid on dry land, Hu said. Also during drought conditions, mosquitoes' natural predators disappear: frogs, beetles, dragon fly larvae and fish.
Recent rains have promoted the mosquito hatching.
The mosquito control program's six trucks have been on spray control nightly, mainly responding to resident requests — some 240 calls since August. The most severe infestations are in Brooksville, the Lake Lindsey area, Ridge Manor and the vicinity of Rock Road, Hu said.
"We have sprayed sporadically in rural areas to find those mosquitoes, larvae and pupae," he said.
Other breeding grounds are pools at foreclosed homes. "We go into a home based on request," the director said, "usually from neighbors."
Suppressive measures include larvicides and biological control, all safe for humans and animals. Also, the mosquito control division will give to residents with ponds minnows that eat mosquito larvae. Biologic suppressants also are available upon request.
"We try to encourage residents to control their own property of standing water," Hu said.
The most obvious breeding grounds are old tires. Add to those outdoor toys, flower pots, buckets or anything that can hold as little as one-quarter inch of water. Boats, even those covered, can provide a breeding ground with a bit of moisture.
Also consider birdbaths and bromeliads, a plant that holds water at the base of its leaves. "Those plants grow millions of mosquitoes," Hu said. Both should be emptied and refilled with fresh water weekly, he advised.
Because mosquito control is mainly a health issue, Hu advised: "Make sure when you go out, wear mosquito repellent, long pants and long sleeves."
The mosquito control division's budget is about $700,000 this year, plus a $35,000 state grant to fight the noxious pest that can threaten health.
In his more than nine years in charge of the mosquito control division, Hu said, "it's not the worst, but it's bad, a little bit higher than average. It's not the worst — yet."
Beth N. Gray can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.