Manatee Mosquito Control District supervisor Chris Lesser said the recent outbreak of mosquitoes caused by standing water left from Tropical Storm Debby prompted his department to aerial spray Anna Maria Island around 8:30 p.m. July 5.
He apologized for not getting word out, but the decision to make the flyover came only after inspectors found spraying from trucks was ineffective at killing the pesky insects that began breeding in the wake of Tropical Storm Debby.
Lesser said another flyover might be necessary, but truck-spraying will continue for now.
The district’s helicopter also sprayed Anna Maria Island on June 21. It was the first time in 15 years that aerial spraying of the Island was needed. The chopper usually sprays large areas of the mainland for mosquito control. Mosquito-spraying airplanes and trucks also are used.
“We can spray Anna Maria Island in a few minutes,” Lesser said.
The Island is susceptible to mosquito outbreaks because of the numerous vacation rentals and second-homes that may be vacant for several weeks or longer, he said. Some seasonal properties are empty from May through October.
Lesser also is concerned that Island mosquitoes are not acting like their mainland counterparts.
“These mosquitoes aren’t like normal mosquitoes,” he said. “They come out about an hour before dusk, unlike ordinary mosquitoes that prefer darkness.”
After sunset, the island’s mosquitoes return to their breeding grounds or hide where the trucks have difficulty reaching them.
Lesser was concerned that islanders would not over-react to a low-flying helicopter, and he said he hoped everyone understood the reason for the flyover.
“If there’s another flyover, we’ll try to notify the Island in advance,” he said. “Thankfully, it won’t be at 2 in the morning, but shortly before dusk.”
Tips to fight mosquitoes
Tom Larkin, Manatee County’s environmental health director, offered these tips to keep the mosquito breeding to a minimum:
• Standing water in tires, toys, retention ponds, bird baths and drainage swales are excellent breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Keep those areas clear.
• Clean out eaves, troughs and gutters.
• Remove old tires or drill holes in those that hold water.
• Turn over or remove plastic pots.
• Pick up beverage containers and cups.
• Check out tarps on boats or other equipment that might collect water.
• Pump out bilges on boats.
• Replace water in birdbaths and pet or other animal feeding dishes at least once a week.
• Remove vegetation or obstructions in drainage ditches that prevent water flow.
Larkin also recommended people avoid the outdoors between dusk and dawn, the time when mosquitoes are most active.
Lesser, however, has said island mosquitoes are most active in the hour before dusk.