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Published Jun. 25, 2012

Recent storms have brought much-needed rain to Pasco County, but along with greener lawns and rising ponds come millions of unwelcome summer guests: hungry mosquitoes.

The staff at Pasco County Mosquito Control District engage an arsenal of trucks and helicopters rigged with spraying equipment to keep the insects at bay. The mosquito season swung into high gear early this year as a result of some heavy rains at the end of May. This major battle will continue throughout the summer and into fall, when we change our focus to training, equipment overhaul and other activities.

During daytime hours you will likely see our staff controlling mosquito larvae found in roadside ditches and flooded fields. You might also see our orange helicopters treating the mosquito larvae developing in the shallow bodies of water throughout the county. Another focus of the field inspectors is to help our residents locate and identify containers that hold water on their property. Abandoned boats, buckets, tires and cups can be a major source of mosquito production. Residents should remove or empty these containers.

Once mosquitoes emerge from the aquatic larval stages they will soon be looking for their first blood meal - possibly you. The district monitors the adult mosquito populations by using specialized traps in 40 locations throughout Pasco County. These collections are identified by species and the counts are provided to the staff to decide where to dispatch the night fogging trucks or airplanes to control the adult stage of the mosquito.

During the evening you might see an orange spray truck with a strobe light buzzing up and down the streets or notice a plane flying an odd pattern 300 feet above. The adult stage of the mosquito is most active after sunset.

Besides being a major nuisance, mosquitoes are capable of transmitting several diseases. The district tests weekly for Eastern equine encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis and West Nile virus by drawing small amounts of blood from sentinel chickens around the county. If any virus is detected, that area of the county is inspected to find and eliminate any larval or adult mosquitoes.

To stop mosquitoes from living and multiplying around homes or businesses we recommend that you:

Remove anything on your property that could potentially hold water. Mosquitoes can lay eggs and grow in water from rain collected in objects as small as bottle caps. That means discarding old tires, drums, bottles, cans, pots and pans, broken appliances and other items not being used. Empty and clean birdbaths and pet water bowls at least weekly. Protect boats and vehicles from rain with tarps that don't accumulate water. Maintain proper pool chemistry in swimming pools and empty plastic swimming pools when not in use.

Cover skin with clothing, use mosquito repellent and cover doors and windows with screens - or repair broken screens - to keep mosquitoes out. for more information.

Dennis Moore is director of the Pasco County Mosquito Control District.