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Mosquitoes put the bite on Northeast Georgia

POSTED: May 30, 2013 12:08 a.m.

“There’s a lot of them.”

That’s one statement many people can agree with as the weather warms up and the mosquitoes come out.

And coming from Jerry DeRamus, mosquito control supervisor with the Georgia Mosquito Control Association, it’s an accurate statement.

“We have 64 different varieties of mosquito in the state of Georgia,” he said, with the Aedes albopictus, also known as the Asian Tiger, being the most prevalent.

Because of recent, heavy rain in the area, there may be more opportunities for mosquitoes to find standing water and be able to lay their eggs.

“All a female mosquito needs is about five drops of water to lay her eggs in,” DeRamus said.

The best way to prevent an outbreak is to prevent the insects from ever breeding in the first place.

“Get rid of standing water,” DeRamus emphasized. “If you get rid of standing water, you’ll eliminate the habitat.”

Following a heavy rain, he advised property owners to look around and dry off any areas with excess water.

Michael Wheeler, county extension agent, agreed.

“The biggest thing with mosquito control is reducing breeding sites,” he said in an email. “Bird baths, for example, should be dumped, cleaned and refilled every day.”

Both Wheeler and DeRamus said that it takes five to seven days for the life cycle of a mosquito, from larva to adult, to be complete. DeRamus said that the eggs can remain viable for up to four years.

City of Gainesville residents can pick up complimentary mosquito control briquettes at the street maintenance division shop on Alta Vista Road.

“This is the first time we’ve done something like this,” said Public Works Director David Dockery. “Earlier in the spring, there were some citizens that expressed concerns to our City Council about the possibility of mosquito infestations, and concerns about the possibility of West Nile virus and some of the other problems that mosquitoes carry.”

The BTI Mosquito Control Briquets carry a type of bacteria that kills mosquito larvae in standing water. The doughnut-shaped treatments are nontoxic, and do not harm the environment.

“What someone is to do with them, is to put them in areas of standing water,” Dockery said. “Like, if there’s a low place in their yard, or if it’s a subdivision that has a detention pond that doesn’t completely drain, they could be used in applications like that.”

Mosquitoes and related diseases are not just a problem for humans.

“The most common thing that we deal with in a small animal practice is the fact that they can spread heartworm disease,” said Huey Ford, a veterinarian with Gainesville Veterinary Hospital.

“We have had an increased amount of heartworms in the last five or six years. I think that’s a combination of things — there are more people moving into the area with dogs that have heartworm already, and some people have stopped giving their animals preventive treatment.”

The best way to protect your pets, Ford advises, is to provide them with preventive treatment, which can be in a monthly pill or in the form of a shot every six months.

“Heartworm disease used to be relatively rare, but lately I’ve seen probably 10 to 15 cases a year,” Ford said, adding that does not include the other veterinarians in the practice. “We are definitely seeing an increase.”

Other methods for humans to prevent mosquito bites include using repellent outside, and wearing loose-fitting clothing.

For many, mosquitoes are just another general nuisance of outside activities, but they do transmit diseases.

In fact, last year was a record year for the West Nile virus, according to entomologist Elmer Gray, with the University of Georgia’s Department of Entomology.

“There were over 100 cases diagnosed in Georgia,” he said, “and the previous was something like 55. So 2012 was really a very active year.”

“Every species of mosquito carries some type of disease,” DeRamus said. “Along with West Nile, we also have Eastern equine encephalitis virus,” which can be found in both horses and, more rarely, in humans.

Other than ensuring pets have proper preventive care, and taking steps around living areas to prohibit breeding, there’s not a lot people can do in getting rid of the flying pests, especially as the weather warms up.

“There’s only one place in the world that doesn’t have mosquitoes, and that’s Antarctica,” said DeRamus. “And that’s because there’s no water.”


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