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Hurricane Ian didn't just bring historic flooding, but a record count of mosquitos, too

Mosquito photo. Free public domain CC0 image.
Mosquito photo. Free public domain CC0 image.

Orange County is buzzing with higher levels of mosquito activity. County experts say the booming population came after Hurricane Ian.

Prior to Ian’s landfall over a month ago, Orange County reported a mosquito count of about 13,000. Two weeks after the storm drenched Florida with historic flood levels, the county reported 46,000 mosquitos.

The County’s Mosquito Control manager Steve Harrison says still water brought by Ian is what led to the buggy population boom.

“That is the most amount of mosquitoes we’ve ever trapped in one week throughout the county. That’s one of the highest numbers we’ve had,” he said.

Typically, mosquito control workers observe population booms two weeks after a storm. The latest boom was particularly prolific because of the enormous amount of water left behind by the hurricane, Harrison said.

Mosquito Bourne Virus

Prior to Ian, county managers observed some West Nile virus activity via the county’s sentinel chicken program, which is a program that strategically places chickens throughout the county to observe viral development derived from mosquitos. 

“It’s kind of like fishing. You go out, you know the fish are there. You throw your hooks. You throw your bait. You may not catch any fish, but you know they’re there,” he said. “We detect the virus in some of the flocks. So we know it’s there. So we’re just going to assume that it’s everywhere. And we’re going to try and minimize the potential threat to humans here.”

As a result, Harrison requested an “aerial mosquito control application” from the state. No West Nile activity has been noted since Ian, but Harrison and the team are monitoring the situation.

Reducing Numbers

Meanwhile, mosquito control crews are continuing to treat problematic areas of Orange and have seen numbers fall, but they remain high as crews work overtime to reduce the population.

“We’ve definitely ramped up our nighttime sprays as well as our daytime operations. I have day crews and night crews. Day crews primarily focus on you know, mosquito larvae. So they’re looking for mosquitoes that breed in the water. And then the night crews are focused on controlling the adult stages of mosquitoes, via truck sprays,” Harrison said.

While the numbers have dropped, last week’s total was still high for 20,000 mosquitoes. 

Forecasters say Florida’s winter is expected to be dry but warm.

Harrison is unsure how that forecast may affect future populations.

Copyright 2022 WMFE. To see more, visit WMFE.

Joe Mario Pedersen