Summer is just around the corner, but so are the mosquitoes that pester Aiken residents.
Cool temperatures this spring have kept the pesky bugs from coming out early this year, said City Solid Waste Department Supervisor Sarah Herring. But, she expects to see more of them as temperatures rise. She also hopes her department will have done enough to prepare for them.
Herring said mosquito complaints were relatively quiet last year, when the City began its preparation for mosquito season in mid-March. But the Public Services Department just finished cleaning up debris from the ice storm in February, Herring said, and hasn’t yet turned its attention to the two-winged insects.
Herring said they plan to begin next week.
“We’re a little bit behind, but I think we can get caught up,” Herring said.
The City stopped blanketing its roads with mosquito spray in 2011 in accordance with U.S. Environment Agency restrictions; now, it takes a more deliberate approach.
Herring said the City will start next week by identifying areas that will attract mosquitoes, such as retention ponds, parkways with bioswales or other areas that hold standing water where mosquitoes can breed. There, the City can drop larvicide, which keeps mosquito larvae from maturing into adulthood, and which remains in the water until mosquito season ends in the fall.
“There’s certain areas we know we’re going to have a problem with, so we just get ahead of it,” Herring said.
The City also puts out 16 gravid traps – which attract female mosquitoes with water and use a fan to suck them up – in various areas.
The captured mosquitoes are sent to Clemson University to be tested for diseases. Mosquitoes in South Carolina can carry the potentially-deadly West Nile virus, which caused 119 deaths out of 2,469 reported cases nationwide last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An Aiken County man died from the virus in 2012.
Areas where mosquitoes with the virus are found will get special attention, Herring said.
“We’ll hit it hard and heavy with everything we’ve got,” Herring said.
The City offers spot-spraying to residents who ask for it. Herring said her crew usually responds the next day.
“They’ll start calling, and we’ll start coming in,” Herring said.
Aiken County sprays county roads for mosquitoes upon request, said County Roads and Bridges Superintendent Waylon Fields.
Herring said residents can protect themselves by emptying bird baths, old tires, debris-filled gutters, buckets or anything else that holds standing water. She also suggested cutting grass regularly and getting rid of ivy, as mosquitoes need just a teaspoon of water to lay and hatch eggs.
Individuals can protect themselves by wearing repellent and by staying indoors during dusk, dawn and early evening, when mosquitoes most often go out to feed. Herring said it’s impossible to get rid of all the mosquitoes, but that she hopes Aiken’s residents will protect themselves as best they can.
“It’s a battle we’ll never win,” Herring said. “But people need to be mindful of the fact that they’re out there.”
Residents can call the City Public Services Department at 803-642-7613 to request help with mosquitoes, or the County’s Roads and Bridges department at 803-642-1532 to request spraying on a county road.