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Mosquito Control goes on offense in Charlotte County after heavy rains

During Tuesday’s aerial larvicide mission, approximately 1000 acres of land were sprayed with BTI - a bacteria that officials say is non-toxic to mammals, but fatal for mosquito larvae.
Posted at 5:12 PM, Jun 18, 2024

CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. — Charlotte County’s Mosquito Control is going on the offensive to kill mosquito larvae after heavy rains made the area ripe for the irritating insects to breed.

On Tuesday, the mosquito control conducted an aerial larvicide mission, targeting mosquito larvae in the ‘mid county’ salt marsh areas.

“We do this typically after any large rain event,” said Jeff Proffitt, Operations Supervisor. “It’s always the most economical to attack the mosquito in its larval stages. They’re concentrated as well as the product is a little softer on the environment.”

Mosquito Larvae
Live mosquito larvae at the Mosquito and Aquatic Weed Control laboratory.

During Tuesday’s aerial larvicide mission, approximately 1000 acres of land were sprayed with a Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (BTI) mixture. BTI is a bacteria that is non-toxic to mammals, but is fatal for mosquito larvae.

Helicopter Mosquito Control
County staff fill a helicopter tank with a BTI mixture during Tuesday's aerial larvicide mission.

According to the county, the most common mosquito species in the county is the Culex Nigripalpus, but the Aedes taeniorhynchus, or Salt Marsh Mosquito is the most aggressive and is the biggest nuisance.

The Salt Marsh Mosquito breeds in and near salt marshes where salt or brackish water floods and drains. Their eggs can lay dormant for years before getting wet during storms or high tides and then hatching.

“Anytime you get that water intrusion whether it's from rain or tide into the marsh, that's what starts the breeding process,” said Proffitt.

Jeff Proffitt
Jeff Proffitt speaks with Fox 4's Charlotte County Community Correspondent Alex Orenczuk during Tuesday's aerial larvicide mission.

Scott Schermerhorn, Director of Mosquito and Aquatic Weed Control said keeping the mosquito population in check means more than preventing annoying bites. It's a public health initiative aimed at stopping the spread of viruses.

“Our whole mission is basically focused on public health. We are here to kill mosquitoes to prevent mosquito borne diseases or arboviruses,” said Schermerhorn. “Our mission really is to cut down the population and the chance that the mosquitoes will pick up things like malaria that we saw in a county north to us, like west nile virus, like eastern equine encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis, Zika, Chikungunya, yellow fever, there's a whole host of them.”

Scott Schermerhorn
Scott Schermerhorn speaks with county staff during Tuesday's aerial larvicide mission.

In addition to aerial spraying for larvae, Mosquito Control also uses a variety of other methods like spray and fog trucks to treat adult mosquitoes in rural and residential areas. Also, county biologists are constantly studying and monitoring mosquito species populations and behaviors to make informed decisions about how and when to treat areas for mosquitoes.

Despite the effort taken to control mosquitoes and kill them before they can fly, there will always be a risk of getting bitten. The county says you should still take precautions when going outside - especially in rural areas when the sun is down, and during the rainy season.

“If you're going to be going out for a hike, you can use some common sense and try not to go directly at dusk or at dawn,” said Schermerhorn. “Obviously any repellent that you use like DEET I definitely recommend, long pants, and as most people find out, socks. Socks can really assist in not having to scratch and feel miserable all night.”

Orenczuk ankle
Fox 4's Charlotte County Community Correspondent Alex Orenczuk naively did not wear socks or bug spray while fishing over the weekend.

Schermerhorn also says mosquitoes are less attracted to light colors, so consider wearing those while outdoors.

To find out when and where the county will be treating mosquitoes, or to report a large mosquito population, click this link.