BROOKSVILLE — Mosquito season in Hernando County isn't supposed to hit its peak for another couple of months. But Spring Hill resident Connie Amaral will tell you otherwise.
Every morning her husband, David, arms himself with a sprayer to knock out clouds of pests that have gathered on their garage door screen overnight.
"I've never (seen) anything as bad as this," Amaral said. "If you walk outside, you'll be covered with them in a minute."
County mosquito control director Guangye Hu on Friday said residents can thank a combination of recent heavy rains and warming temperatures for the outbreak of the bloodsuckers.
"We had 13 inches of rain in the last few weeks and that has spawned rapid breeding," Hu said. "It's unusual for this time of year, but it happens."
To battle the outbreak, Hu was authorized Friday by County Administrator David Hamilton to spend the funds necessary to send the county's four spray trucks on nighttime spraying through the end of next week.
The spray trucks will be operated by staffers from mosquito control and county utilities, as well as temporary drivers until the situation is brought under control.
Last year, reacting to demands from citizens for a leaner budget, the county slashed 30 percent of the funds for mosquito control, leaving less money for spraying and larvaciding — a method to kill the mosquito larvae before they develop into flying insects.
But after being inundated with calls from concerned residents, County Commission Chairman Jim Adkins said it became apparent that eradication efforts needed to be stepped up.
Adkins met Friday with Hu and asked him to craft a proposed budget that would handle the expenses necessary to get the job done.
Commissioner Jeff Stabins said the explosion in the mosquito population could lead to another outbreak of West Nile virus, which was discovered in three sentinel chickens last fall.
"If there are more flying than usual then we have the possibility of a public health crisis," Stabins said.
County officials recommend that residents use mosquito repellent if they plan to be outdoors both during the daytime and evening hours. Residents should also wear long sleeves and long pants in the evening, and dump any standing water from mosquito-breeding sources such as flower pots, toys, lawn furniture or anything that holds water.
For more information, call Mosquito Control at (352) 540-6552, or check the Mosquito Control website at www.hernandocounty.us/mosquito.
Staff writer Barbara Behrendt contributed to this report. Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.