Mosquito control in full force

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 9, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

If you think that mosquitoes have not bothered you as much in Suffolk this year as in years past, you may be right.

But it would be hard to convince James Carey of that.

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Carey is employed with the City of Suffolk in the mosquito control division. Four days a week from a few hours before dusk until a few hours after – the time period when mosquitoes are most active and most people have packed it in and headed indoors to escape the pests – he’s among them, setting and checking mosquito traps throughout the city.

Early Tuesday evening, he was deep into the Lake Kennedy neighborhood, parked on a street that dead-ends at a densely wooded area. Carey was preparing to march about 100 yards into the brush to set a mosquito trap.

&uot;I have to use repellent,&uot; Carey said as he was preparing one of his CDC traps in the bed of his pickup truck.

&uot;Sometimes I get bit pretty badly.&uot;

Carey spends nine to 10 hours a night, four days a week during mosquito season setting and collecting his traps. On Tuesday he was accompanied by Jason Parrish, who’s training on the route.

But while the mosquito population may understandably be seen by Carey as thriving, according to his boss, Robert Ward, so far this year Suffolk has seen fewer mosquitoes than in years past.

Ward, 57, has been the city’s mosquito control supervisor since he came here from Florida in May. He noted Tuesday that while most people associate a wet summer like the one we’ve had with an increase in the mosquito population, such has not been the case this year because of the rain patterns.

&uot;We’ve have had fewer seen here than in the past because throughout this summer we’ve had a lot of rain in short periods,&uot; he said. &uot;In those flooding conditions, the running water takes the eggs away and it’s not conducive to mosquitoes laying their eggs – particularly the ones that lay them on the water.&uot;

Ward noted the rain patters helped avoid mosquito problems that were likely in the wake of Isabel, with all the downed trees creating lots of habitat.

&uot;The heavy, flooding rains that occurred last September flushed out many of those production sites as well,&uot; he said. &uot;Then as weather turned a little cooler, I think that probably impacted the mosquito population on the production.&uot;

Ward isn’t basing any of his judgments on speculation. He oversees an extensive trapping program that focuses on particular areas of the city each week.

Carey runs two different routes, created so that the entire city is trapped twice a week with 13 traps. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) traps, as Ward calls them, captures the mosquitoes by suction. They are attracted by light and dry ice and then sucked into the trap. The traps are run at the same time each day – right around sunset – so data collected is consistent.

&uot;What we are looking for is changes in the population,&uot; Ward said. &uot;We will have different numbers and compositions of mosquitoes. Each site is different because of habitat they are in.&uot;

A change in the mix or number of mosquitoes trapped will trigger a spraying program to eradicate them.

He said the numbers have varied throughout the summer. Early on, he said, there were large numbers being trapped in the area of the Great Dismal Swamp and then it slacked off for a month and moved to the downtown area and then out to more remote, agricultural areas.

&uot;The absolute numbers don’t mean a great deal sometimes, but for the bulk of the summer, it’s been low.&uot;

But Carey is not going to put away his repellent just yet. Ward noted that the numbers of mosquitoes has been on the upswing for the past couple weeks.