BROOKSVILLE — As if flooding, no electricity and a significant interruption of normalcy were not enough of a parting gift from Hurricane Irma, Hernando County's east side has also been plagued with a huge uptick in the number of buzzing and biting mosquitoes.
To combat that problem and try to head off any serious diseases the insects can spread, Hernando County notified the Florida Department of Agriculture, which last weekend conducted a major aerial spray of 127,000 acres east of the Suncoast Parkway. The cost will be paid by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"The decision for aerial spraying was made due to the overwhelming increase in the mosquito population, with the advisement of county health officials and in direct response to citizens' recent requests,'' county spokeswoman Virginia Singer said when the spraying was announced. "At this time, there have been no reported or confirmed mosquito-borne diseases in Hernando County."
Keeping Hernando safe from dangerous mosquito-borne illnesses such as West Nile virus was the reason for the spraying, said Sandra Fisher-Grainger, the county's mosquito control director.
Before the aerial assault, traps that might normally contain 500 mosquitoes were showing 26,000. The hope is that new examinations will reduce that number by 90 percent, Fisher-Grainger said. Some of the 10 species caught in the traps are ones that carry disease, she said.
Delayed at first by weather forecasts, the spraying by contractor Vector Disease Control Inc. started Saturday evening. But the planes only operated a couple of hours because winds began to pick up. The operation was completed Sunday. The last time the county turned to aerial spraying was after Tropical Storm Debby in 2012.
The west side of the county was not part of the aerial spraying because any mosquito increases there were not exponential like the ones in Ridge Manor and Brooksville. Fisher-Grainger also noted that many of the mosquito issues in the Spring Hill area are related to containers breeding insects, and dumping water from the containers is the best way to get those infestations under control.
Singer said aerial spraying "requires the controlled use of chemicals, and action is taken to protect the public as well as domestic and wild animals. All public health interests are considered when taking action for aerial spraying. Multiple state and federal agencies are involved to assure such public interests are considered and met.''
Contact Barbara Behrendt at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.