Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Dry Conditions Spell Relief from Bugs

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Dry Conditions Spell Relief from Bugs

Article excerpt

ALBANY -- Even long droughts have a silver lining, and the dry spell that has parched the South has one that might make some people thankful for a lack of rain: fewer mosquitoes.

This spring, Gerald Kirksey's mosquito-control workers have spent more time mowing roadsides than attacking the annoying, bloodsucking insects that usually make life miserable for humans and animals.

"We've just had very few [complaints]," he said. "We're doing a little isolated spraying, but very little."

Kirksey, Dougherty County's public works director, credits the dry weather and an aggressive pesticide program for reducing the mosquito problem in this southwestern Georgia community.

When the county's mosquito control workers aren't spraying, Kirksey sends them out to mow grass and weeds along the roadsides. So far, the highest number of complaints about mosquitoes in a day is seven, compared with a daily record of 175 set in 1998, he said.

Elmer Gray, a medical veterinary entomologist with the University of Georgia's College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in Athens, said the drought should not only reduce the mosquito population, but it also should cut down on the number of black flies, another annoying bug.

Black flies, which include some gnats, breed in rivers and streams, which are at record low levels in parts of southern Georgia.

"In the Southeast, they're mostly a nuisance," Gray said. "They're attracted to the carbon dioxide we exhale so they tend to swarm about the head and shoulders."

Mosquitoes, which breed in stagnant water that collects in ditches, flower pots and old tires, are more of a health threat because they can transmit serious diseases, such as malaria, yellow fever and dengue fever to humans, heartworms to dogs and encephalitis to humans and horses.

An outbreak of West Nile virus in New York last year killed seven people and sickened scores more. In an effort to combat the virus-carrying mosquitoes that transmit the disease, city leaders approved a resolution last month declaring standing water to be a public nuisance. …

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