With the days of summer always comes Georgia's unofficial state bird - the mosquito.
Lots of them.
After a wet winter, Columbia County officials expect more than the normal swarms of mosquitoes.
"We are anticipating a lot more need for larvicide this year based on the increased amount of precipitation we have had," said Kevin Lear, the county'sconstruction and maintenance services director.
That division is responsible for the county's mosquito-control program, which includes putting tablets to kill mosquito larvae into all standing water such as retention ponds and storm drains, but not ponds, where fish and other aquatic animals eat the eggs.
"The commissioners have doubled our budget from $5,000 to $10,000 for the purchase of larvicide and we will probably step up the number of places we put those out and the frequency of that," Lear said.
The county health department already has received many calls about the large number of mosquitoes, said Mark Woody, County environmental health manager. Many of those callers want to see the insecticide truck spraying pesticides to kill the mosquitoes, which is not very effective, Woody said.
"The truck does not do anything except kill the mosquitoes in the spray. The mosquitoes that come in contact with it are the only ones that die," Woody said. "The bottom line is getting rid of standing water."
County employee Tony Williams tosses Altosid tablets in a retention pond to kill mosquito eggs.
Photo by Valerie Rowell
To avoid mosquito bites, Woody recommends the same precautions as Dr. Chitra Mani, epidemiologist at the Medical College of Georgia Children's Medical Center. Avoiding the bites also avoids diseases mosquitoes carry, such as West Nile virus and encephalitis.
Preventing mosquito bites is the best and only option, Mani said. Woody said tip over or regularly clean out all containers such as flower pots, tires, birdbaths and wheelbarrows that retain water.
Avoid bites by staying indoors during dawn and dusk, wear repellent with DEET and long sleeves and pants when outdoors.
Humans must protect themselves against mosquitoes because they will never go away, Woody said.
"There is no way we are going to get rid of every mosquito," he said. "This is Georgia. We have got to realize where we live."
Steps to prevent mosquito bites:
* Minimize outdoor activities when mosquitoes are feeding - usually dawn and dusk.
* When outside during mosquito-feeding times, wear a long-sleeved shirt, pants and socks.
* Wear insect repellent containing DEET, the most effective substance in preventing mosquito bites. Do not use DEET on children under 12 months old or on skin under clothing.
* Use tight-fitting window and door screens.
* Treat birdbaths, fountains, wading pools and other outdoor water features and empty all containers of standing water such as flower pots, wheelbarrows and paint cans.
Source: Dr. Chitra Mani, epidemiologist for the Medical College of Georgia Children's Medical Center.
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