HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – The pesky bugs that can leave you covered in itchy, red bumps are likely to make quite the appearance this season. Horry County has begun to spray for mosquitoes a month earlier than usual in preparation.
Blame the mosquito counts on the floods. From October 2015 to March of this year, 39.07 inches of rain was dumped on Horry County. That's almost 15 inches above average, and over that six month period, we had over 50 days of at least a trace of rain. High water levels and more standing water than usual makes the perfect home for a high mosquito population.
Horry County Mosquito Control Supervisor James Brock said there's good news and bad news about the water.
"The good news is it's starting to dry up, the bad news is mosquitoes have already laid eggs at the high water mark, and they don't need a lot of water to hatch off. So as long as it's damp, moist, they can continue to hatch, and as the water falls, they can continue to lay eggs," Brock said.
DHEC put out a mosquito warning last October and we're still seeing the effects of those mosquitoes. Brock said mosquito eggs can lay dormant for about a year, waiting for the right conditions to hatch. Although woodland mosquitoes take up residence in the forests, it's the mosquito breeds called "container breeds" you need to look out for most. They breed in tires, tarps, flower pots, outside toys, puddles, etc. Brock said these are the most aggressive breeds. They bite at all times during the day, while woodland breeds tend to bite at dawn and dusk.
Brock said he can't stress enough to the community to "tip and toss."
"The main thing is right now, is police your yards. Tip and toss. If you see standing water, tip it out. Flush your bird baths out, your flowers, your containers, tip your boat back…" Brock said.
North Myrtle Beach is spraying for the bugs Tuesday night, Wednesday and Thursday. The city budgeted $490,000 for mosquito control in 2014. In 2014, the county almost ran out of money because they faced heightened mosquito populations. This year, the county reports the budget has increased to $520,000. This includes an aerial spraying contract, chemicals, equipment and staffing. Storm water treatments have also increased from 6,500 last year to 10,000 this year.
Horry County will make house calls to find the root of severe mosquito problems. Mosquito control workers actually measure the 'landing rate' of mosquitoes by seeing how many of the bugs land on them. The estimated count is then provided to the county. The landing rate determines the level of county response to protect you. The response can range in aerial sprays by plane, truck or manual sprays on the ground.
"While we're doing this one of us is taking a landing rate count which we're going to find a place where the mosquitoes are active….whether it's by the edge of the woods by the container itself, by a stack of tires…and we count what lands on us in a minute," Brock explained.
The county is also keeping in mind the thousands of Americans with travel plans to and from Brazil for the Olympics. The Zika virus outbreak occurred there, and it seems inevitable we will see an increase in Zika cases from Americans bringing it here after their Brazilian visit. Brock says the county is working with DHEC and the CDC. The county has a contingency plan in place should the virus occur here.
Brock says the most important things to do to protect your family is to get rid of all standing water, treat your gutters and drains, wear light-colored clothing, bug spray and vaccinate your pets.
North Myrtle Beach malathion spray schedule from the City:
The city sprays for one hour (30 minutes before and after sunrise and sunset) on the following fixed schedule:
- Tuesday Evening: Windy Hill, Timber Ridge subdivision, Airport Blvd. Area, Pinewood Acres subdivision and Barefoot Resort development
- Wednesday Morning: 28th S to 15th S , Barefoot Landing, Commons Blvd., and City ball fields
- Wednesday Evening: 15th Ave. South to 18th Ave. North, Vereen's Marina (13th Avenue North), Waterway Mobile Home Park, Belle Park, Robbers Roost and Sea Side Plantation
- Thursday Evening: 18th Ave. North to Little River Neck Rd., Creekside, Myrtle Beach RV, Foxfire Village, Tidewater and Charleston Landing.