Collier mosquito season gets early start but too early to say if bad summer is ahead

Scott McIntyre/Staff
Adrian Salinas shows his collection of mosquitoes caught in the last year around Collier County at the Collier County Mosquito Control on Thursday May 31, 2012.

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Scott McIntyre/Staff Adrian Salinas shows his collection of mosquitoes caught in the last year around Collier County at the Collier County Mosquito Control on Thursday May 31, 2012.

— Mosquitoes are creating an early buzz in Southwest Florida.

Salt marsh mosquitoes arrived in Collier and Lee counties in April, two months earlier than usual based on previous years. That doesn't necessarily translate into a worse season, just an earlier one.

The cause was high tides, not the recent heavy rains in spots, said Frank Van Essen, executive director of the Collier County Mosquito Control District.

"There are really not huge numbers, compared to what it will be like in the middle of the summer," Van Essen said.

The worst locations are Marco Island, Isles of Capri, East Naples and to the north near Wiggins Pass. Many of them migrated in from the Everglades, and Van Essen said most of the work now is killing those adult mosquitoes.

Van Essen and his counterparts in Lee County said it's difficult to predict how bad mosquito season will be.

"I would expect us to stay busy most of the summer," said Shelly Redovan, deputy director of education and communication of the Lee County Mosquito Control District. "It just depends what the weather does to us."

Collier County uses two methods for surveillance. One is to place traps in various places to collect mosquitoes, count and identify species. The other method is a landing rate count — inspectors go out and count the number of mosquitoes that land on them in two minutes.

After combining the information from both methods, mosquito control puts the numbers on a map and treats the area with the highest numbers, Van Essen said.

Collier uses either a helicopter or a truck to spray areas for mosquitoes.

Once there is more rain, fresh water mosquitoes will arrive instead of the salt marsh variety now prevalent in some areas. Fresh water mosquitoes are the type known to carry certain diseases, such as the West Nile virus.

If the drought, which leaves more dry land for mosquitoes to lay eggs, is extensive enough for another month, it would delay the season for fresh water mosquitoes, Van Essen said.

Collier has the possibility of collecting 43 different species of fresh water mosquitoes, but Van Essen said the district is only concerned about four or five varieties that carry diseases or are aggressive bitters.

Deb Millsap, a spokeswoman for the Collier County Health Department, said the agency hasn't received any reports of mosquito-borne illnesses yet.

Sally Stein, director of public programs at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, said the nature preserve hasn't seen mosquitoes yet.

"It will probably be later in the summer when the rain begins to come," she said.

© 2012 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 3

tathiede writes:

Though I appreciate that they have been spraying from the helicopter on the weekends, I'm surprised they are doing it around 7 am in the morning. That's about the time when people are out walking their dogs, etc. They used to spray earlier around 5 am. I'm sure it's not good being outside while they are spraying.

mahiman writes:

Spray, spray, spray! Spray's not enough!!!! These things are nasty.

1Paradiselost writes:

Time to spray! Just went out and got bit 8 times! Where is my tax money going? TIME TO SPRAY!!!!!!

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