County marks National Mosquito Control Awareness Week

Employees of the county’s Mosquito Control Department stand behind Pinellas County Commission Chair Karen Seel June 18 as she reads a proclamation declaring June 23-29 as National Mosquito Control Awareness Week. From left are, Operations Supervisor Kevin Pedicord, Vegetation Management and Mosquito Control Program Manager Brian Lawton, Spray Technician Craig Warren and Environmental Specialist Alissa Berro.

CLEARWATER — The rainy season has arrived and so have the mosquitos. The public’s help is needed to combat them.

Pinellas County Commission joined the American Mosquito Control Association in its declaration of June 23-29 as National Mosquito Control Awareness Week. Vegetation Management and Mosquito Control Program Manager Brian Lawton, Operations Supervisor Kevin Pedicord, Environmental Specialist Alissa Berro and Spray Technician Craig Warren stood behind Commission Chair Karen Seel at the podium when she read a proclamation during the commission’s June 18 meeting.

“Mosquito-borne diseases have historically been a source of human and animal suffering in the United States and worldwide,” Seel said. “Excess numbers of mosquitos diminish the enjoyment of the outdoors, public parks and playgrounds, and hinder outdoor work, diminish livestock productivity and reduce property values.”

Mosquito Control Awareness Week promotes the benefits of public education of using safe, professionally applied mosquito control, as well as serving to motivate the public to help eliminate mosquito-breeding areas on their own property, Seel said.

The county’s Mosquito Control Department provides treatment and prevention services for the entire county, including its 24 municipalities. Lawton said the department also works to educate the public on ways to defend themselves in the fight against mosquitos.

He encourages everyone to practice the three D’s of mosquito control, “defend, drain and dump.”

Berro, who is the county’s education outreach specialist, talked about some of the work done at Mosquito Control. She said technicians go out every day looking for breeding areas so they can treat them to help reduce the number of mosquitos in an area. County employees also work to remove brush and vegetation where mosquitos can breed.

She said mosquitos use invasive species, such as water lettuce and water hyacinth, as cover, and they lay their eggs inside the plants’ root systems. She said removing vegetation along with treating breeding areas is crucial to Mosquito Control’s mission.

Warren pointed out that educating the public about mosquito awareness was a big part of his job as a spray technician.

“When we come to your house, we are there to assist you yourself or your neighbors,” he said.

He advised people who call about a problem to provide adequate information about their problem and if they are reporting about a property that is vacant, to say so.

The public plays a big role in controlling the mosquito population. One of the most important things people can do is to get rid of standing water where mosquitos can breed.

Officials advise people to empty water from flower pots, garbage cans, recycling containers, wheelbarrows, aluminum cans, old tires, buckets and anything else that can hold water at least weekly.

Other recommendations include:

• Flush birdbaths and wading pools weekly

• Clean roof gutters, which can become clogged and hold water

• Change water in outdoor pet dishes regularly

• Stock ornamental ponds with mosquito-eating fish

• Cover rain barrels with screening

• Check for standing water under houses, near plumbing drains, under air conditioner drips and around septic tanks.

Pedicord also reminds people that bromeliads make good mosquito-breeding grounds. He advises that bromeliads in a planter be drained once a week. Bromeliads in the ground should be flushed to remove mosquito larvae and eggs. In addition, it is best to treat the water with a safe larvicide.

Berro advises people to use mosquito repellant, especially at dawn and dusk. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention recommends products with DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Be sure to read and follow the label directions. Lawson also says to wear loose, light-colored clothing that covers the arms and legs, especially if outside around dusk or dawn.

The county is reporting a recent increase in the number of saltmarsh mosquitos due to recent rains and higher tides, which have caused flooding and better breeding conditions. Mosquito Control has been treating them by fogging in hot spots.

“Saltwater mosquitos are a huge nuisance because they are aggressive biters, but they are not very worrisome as vectors of disease,” Berro said.

For more information about Mosquito Control or to report a problem, call 727-464-7503 or visit www.pinellascounty.org/publicworks/mosquito/default.htm.

For more information on National Mosquito Control Awareness Week, visit www.mosquito.org.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.