SOUTH SHORE: Updates on mosquito spraying

Published on: August 8, 2018

County updating mosquito spraying locations daily

By YVETTE C. HAMMETT

In Hillsborough County Mosquito command central, John Wetjen, left, and Donnie Hayes, review the Mosquito Analytics Response System (MARS) to determine inspection and treatment locations.
Photos from Hillsborough County

The phones ring off the hook this time of year at the Hillsborough County Mosquito Management office, which received almost 700 calls in June.

Now, things will be a little less stinging for those facing Florida’s state biter. County residents can now search online for mosquito spray reports in and around their neighborhoods.

The county has launched a new Mosquito Spray Missions Map, updated daily, which shows where Hillsborough County is spraying for mosquitos by ground and air to manage adult mosquito populations.

 There are detailed instructions online about how to use the map, which provides information on both recently completed areas treated and those planned in the near future.

“Rain keeps us plenty busy, and we’re definitely on an upward tick now with last week’s rain and this week’s rain,” said Donnie Hayes, Mosquito Management Services director. 

“We do get a significant amount of calls, and we are in our peak time of year right now,” Hayes said.

“Looking at this year — and we track all of our calls — they typically start around April when rain starts. April, we got 338 calls in general, saying ‘I am having an issue around my house,’ or ‘when is spray truck coming?’ In May, we had about 600 calls and in June, we were on the cusp of 700. We’ve already had 400 this month,” he said on July 24.

“We have some good surveillance personnel out there, and I rely heavily on them,” he said, speaking of those who never fail to pick up their phones.

Mosquito Management Services conducts mosquito-spraying treatments when monitoring activities determine that mosquito populations have reached levels that threaten the public health, when there are incidents of mosquito-transmitted diseases reported in an area, or when the nuisance threshold for the general population has been exceeded. 

Steve Sullivan, of Hillsborough County Mosquito Management Services, samples standing water for mosquito larvae.

Treatments begin after sunset and are completed before the sun rises.

“Really, what we are trying to do is put transparency in the program by sharing information to help people in their decision-making” he said. “They can look on the online map and say, ‘do I need to pick up the phone?’ or ‘can I just look on the map and see what’s going on?’

“One weekend someone will get eaten by mosquitos, but, they don’t make the call until Wednesday. We could have come through on Monday and sprayed. I hope it is a resource people can go to first to find out what is going on.”

This season, so far, has been anticlimactic, Hayes said. “It’s definitely been an average season. It’s right on par. Nothing too special yet to trigger any significant events.”

Mosquito Management does continue to toll the bell for residents to make sure they empty out standing water around their homes. Different species of mosquitos prefer different environments. The aedes aegypti mosquito, the one that carries the Zika virus and dengue fever, prefers that standing water found in common places around the home.

“Any opportunity I get to spread the word to do anything you can to eliminate standing water, I’m going to take it,” Hayes said. “The Aedes aegypti have the highest probability of being a vector of disease.”

The new map has been online and in operation for several weeks now and so far, there have been no hitches, he said. “We’re publicizing it and have taken a look, ourselves. I don’t have the numbers yet, but we will be tracking. Our IT guys have a counter on it to keep track of the number of hits we’re getting and who we are corresponding with.” 

Find the map at www.HCFLGov.net/Mosquito or call 813-635-5400 for more information about Hillsborough County Mosquito Management.

The county mosquito program has a total budget of $3 million per year, which includes mosquito coverage for unincorporated county areas, as well as in Plant City, Temple Terrace and the City of Tampa.

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