Posts Tagged ‘blood meals’

Brevard mosquito battle comes with costs

A million acres — and arms — will get sprayed to fight the pests

An insect that weighs .00008 of an ounce and is less than an inch long costs the county an estimated $9 million a year to control. It also bugs the economy and tourism in other ways.

 Aircraft technician Michael Matthews inspects a helicopter before doing some aerial spraying for Brevard County’s Mosquito Control at its facility in Titusville. The county spends $9 million annually on the service, covering more than 1 million acres each for the ground and for the air. (Rik Jesse, FLORIDA TODAY)

The humble yet annoying mosquito will re-enter the environment in all of its glory soon with the coming heat and rain. This will not only drive consumers to stores to seek relief with favored repellents and the latest gadgets, but may even have an effect on tourism in the county. It’s too early to tell how bad the mosquitoes will be just yet, according to Peter Taylor, operations manager of the Brevard County Mosquito Control District.

They are at their worst when there are lots of them, and much of the population growth of the insects depends on warmer weather — which we’re now getting in a major way. “The mosquito season changes from year to year,” he said.

 “Their activities are governed by temperature and humidity, and as the year goes into the summer, you start getting rain patterns; but (in the summer) they reproduce at faster rates, and they get out to get blood meals to get the nutrients so that they can reproduce. As it gets warmer, they actually go through their life cycling faster, and that’s the reason it picks up when it’s warmer.”

The types of mosquitoes in Brevard County are of the salt marsh variety, using wet soil to lay their eggs. The county will spray about 1.2 million ground acres this year, at a cost of about $2.63 per acre, and another 1.1 million aerial acres at $1.56 per acre. Derek Helms, owner of the Pest Control Depot in Palm Bay, said a rise in purchasing anti-mosquito supplies tends to come with the summer rains.

 Usually, April and May are drier, he said. “It depends on how heavy the rains are, and then people start coming in,” he said. Overall, he said, mosquito repellants play a relatively small role in his sales, because most people understand that they are just a natural part of the environment. When they do need items, they usually go for sprays containing DEET, which is not as expensive as the alternative — a fog machine to keep the critters away.

“Homeowners realize when they have to spend $250, $300 for a (fog) machine, they generally back down,” he said. “They work really well, but it’s usually not an investment most people are willing to make.”

Yard-wide sprays are sold around town and can work for several days, said Stacey Hewatt, floor manager at Ace Hardware at Pineda, but the most popular item last year was a clip-on, battery operated repellent from Off! The item, similar in size to a cell phone, is on sale for $7.99, and Hewatt figures they will be popular again this year. “I think people buy according to what they are doing,” she said. “If at a baseball field, they might buy the spray. We sell something you can do to your yard, spray your own yard down prior to a barbecue, and it works for a couple of days.” And the buggers even affect tourism.

 Integrated Mosquito Management and the University of Florida teamed up for one of the few official studies on how mosquitoes affect tourism in the state in 1998. The study showed that areas with a high population of mosquitoes tend to have fewer tourists. “It showed a relationship between the number of mosquitoes that were trapped and the tourist dollars that were taken in. And there’s definitely a relationship there,” said he county’s Taylor. “If it gets really bad, people are just not going to get out and enjoy and spend money.”

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