First Coast mosquito control workers are fighting a spike in the disease-carrying insects after Hurricane Matthew.
Both St. Johns and Duval Counties recently turned to aerial spraying to better combat the swarms that are attracted to standing water — but the two counties differed in the type of advance notice they've given residents.
Jacksonville's county-run mosquito control division uses a helicopter and fogger trucks to spray insecticides. Its spraying schedule is posted online, with lists of neighborhoods and ranges of dates when the spraying could take place.
"Missions are typically flown during dusk or dawn," the site says.
Like St. Johns County, Duval uses the pesticide naled, which has been shown to be highly effective in killing the type of mosquito that carries the Zika virus. Hundreds of people in Florida have caught Zika, which is known to cause severe birth defects when pregnant women contract it.
Entomologist Mara Clark, with Jacksonville’s mosquito control division, says, “The amount that we’re putting out is about half-an-ounce per acre. So it’s a very, very small amount. It’s also a very small droplet size that we’re using as well. We’re talking microns."
Still, she said, "We recommend that people not look up when we’re spraying.”
Residents Want More Notice
Mandarin resident Sara Kavalieros says she'd like to keep her 2- and 6-year-old children inside during the sprays.
"And we can only do that if we know it's coming," she said.
She says she saw the mosquito control helicopter flying low and spraying near the intersection of Loretto Road and San Jose Boulevard around 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, as a young girl stood at a bus stop eating a banana right below it.
"It's kind of disturbing," she said.
Jacksonville Beach resident Shana Loomar echoes Kavalieros's frustration over what she says is a lack of clear notice.
"I'm not checking the Duval County website regularly, and I doubt most people are," she said, adding she wishes the county would mail out notices or at least send press releases to local media before each planned spray.
St. Johns County Gives Extra Warnings
St. Johns County's independent Anastasia Mosquito Control District turns to contractors for aerial spraying. When it recently hired a plane, the county warned residents to stay inside by sending notices to local media.
Christopher Bibbs with the Anastasia Mosquito Control District says, “We want to give everybody the option of being able to do that."
Unlike Jacksonville’s city-run mosquito control division, the Anastasia Mosquito Control District is an independent entity run by a five-member elected board.