A mild winter preceded spring-like weather in Columbia County a little early this year.
But warming temperatures and spring showers also bring out mosquitoes.
“It is going to make a huge difference,” county Health Department Environmental Health Specialist Andrea Frazier said of the early warming.
Frazier is a member of the Columbia County Integrated Mosquito Management Program, which started meeting monthly for the season on April 10.
The team was formed last year to coordinate handling mosquito complaints from across the county. Members, including staff from Code Enforcement, Water Utility, Roads and Bridges and the 311 Call Center, believe residents will see more of the biting insects this summer thanks to an early spring arrival.
When temperatures drop, mosquitoes go into a kind of hibernation and spring warmth wakes them, ready to bite and breed, said Health Department Environmental Health Specialist Robert Thornhill.
A cold winter doesn’t kill off mosquitoes, a common misconception. But because the warm weather brought them out earlier this spring, the mosquitoes have more time to multiply, Thornhill said.
Mosquitoes breed in standing water. Up to 30 larvae can incubate in a single soda bottle cap of water, he said.
The county’s 311 Call Center staff fielded 24 mosquito complaints in 2011, just one more than in 2010. But 75 percent of those calls were attributed to abandoned or neglected swimming pools.
“I think it’s on the increase, there’s no doubt,” Code Enforcement Officer Jerry Pitman said. “It’s the economy. People are just walking away from houses.”
The problem is that these foreclosed or abandoned homes can provide ample opportunity for mosquito breeding in non-maintained swimming pools, ponds, birdbaths, gutters, buckets, planters, wheelbarrows, tarps, garbage and overgrown vegetation.
County employees treat standing water on rights-of-ways and other county-owned property with larvicide.
When a complaint comes into the 311 Call Center about neglected or abandoned property that could be mosquito breeding grounds, Code Enforcement Officers Jerry Pitman or Dennis Anderson respond.
They notify the homeowner that action must be taken to correct the situation or be cited, and possibly fined.