Several days ago a reader asked about mosquito control on Ocracoke Island. The question was prompted by my recent post about the invasion of mosquitoes after hurricane Irene. The reader commented, "In your post you say [mosquito control] is being implemented. Does this suggest mere resumption of a regular, ongoing program, or is this something that's done only in extreme situations?"
Ocracoke is part of Hyde County. The rest of our county is on the mainland. One of the Hyde County Health Department's "Programs & Services" is Mosquito Control. They are charged with the "monitoring and surveillance of mosquito-borne illnesses and habitats within the county. The Health Department provides county wide adulticide spraying for mosquitoes [as distinct from killing larval stages]."
During WWII the Navy (which had a large base on the island) sprayed the village heavily with DDT to cut down the mosquito population. As you might imagine, DDT killed the mosquitoes...and most of the frogs, and is suspected of contributing to a number of cancer deaths on Ocracoke. Later, mosquito ditches were dug to drain low, swampy areas where the critters bred.
When I was a child mosquito populations on Ocracoke could sometimes reach epidemic proportions. I remember times, especially some days after a summer rain, when clouds of hungry mosquitoes swarmed around us at dusk. The only protection was a myrtle branch, cut off and constantly swished around our legs, head, and body.
Eventually, a non-DDT spraying program was initiated. Today, I am told that the spray is considered as safe as possible for humans and pets, but still powerful enough to kill adult mosquitoes. I am not sure what chemicals are used (maybe one of our readers knows). Spraying is only conducted when mosquito populations reach certain levels. I have noticed that there is virtually no objection to the mosquito control program when an infestation becomes pervasive and widespread!
By the way, the program is very effective. There are hardly any mosquitoes now. Come on out to Ocracoke and enjoy the fall weather!
Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a history of the marine hospital on Portsmouth Island. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news082111.htm.