Saturday, September 17, 2011

Mosquito Control

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:


  1. Anonymous11:22 AM

    Hardly any mosquitos??

    Now don't get me wrong but most of us when we talk about going to the outer banks we refer to Ocracoke as 'Mosquito Island'.

    We originally heard this name 25 years ago while we were staying in Nags Head and it just stuck with us. I have heard Ocracoke described as Mosquito Island thousands of times while living here in Greensboro.

    We like Ocracoke but to be honest, there ARE a lot of insects especially mosquitos and green headed flies on Ocracoke. Ask anyone that has visited there in the warm months.

    To say otherwise is misleading to any first time visitor. Certain times of the year you will be shocked over the shear number of mosquitos. BRING YOUR BUG SPRAY !

    js (we will still visit but we always come prepared)

  2. Amy had a Ghost & History Walk last night. She started meeting folks at Village Craftsmen at 7 o'clock. They left on the walk at 7:30...returned about 9:15. Amy says she noticed two mosquitoes. And she doesn't use bug spray. I'd say that's hardly any mosquitoes.

    This is not to say that we never have mosquitoes. Sometimes, like right after hurrican Irene, they can be awful...but the mosquito control program is pretty effective.

    Keep in mind that no spraying is done on NPS property.

  3. Anonymous12:31 PM

    Great news Philip; thanks for mentioning mosquitoes. We will be there in 2 weeks and happy to hear mosquitoes are not abundant.

    BTW is Flying Melon open?

    Thanks for all you do.


  4. Anonymous12:34 PM

    My grandfather, an O-cocker, had a famous line that he insisted was right but made all of us kids laugh, "All the mosquitoes come from the mainland."
    That was back in the days when the Mosquito truck would come through Howard Street and spray and force us to all go back into house.

  5. We were there once after a storm and the mosquitoes were bad but "skin so soft" worked really well. it was sold in the Variety Store

  6. We just had more rain last night. Rain often breeds mosquitoes. Keep in mind...I am not guaranteeing no mosquitoes!

    I am not sure if the Flying Melon has reopened or not. Maybe one of our readers knows.

  7. Anonymous1:51 PM

    I agree that sometimes the mosquitoes will eat a person alive, well almost; but, I have found it's usually after a very humid, wet spell. In October, the flies and bugs are not too bad, but I would recommend one comes prepared if walking through Springer's Point.

    In October of 2009, I didn't have to use anything to ward off those pesky critters. Then in 2010, in October, just a year later, I had to literally bathe in bug spray. However,I am not complaining. It's worth it just to be on Ocracoke Island!

  8. The nature trail is another place that the mosquitoes love to hang out

  9. Anonymous7:10 PM

    Anon 1:51 agrees with Pat!

  10. debbie s.9:28 AM

    As with so many things, what one considers 'bad' is relative to what they are used to.

    In july of '10 - our last trip out there- it was hot, muggy and icky - but i didnt notice any 'skeeters'. Some biting flies maybe on the beach but even that wasnt 'bad'. And this coming from someone who 1- is used to bugs (hazard of living in NC, afterall) and 2- attracts every bug within a one mile radius ;)

    could have been luck or happnestance or just ... i dont know. but in all my years of going, I've honestly never really been bothered by the bugs - and have only on a FEW occasions (like wandering down to springers point) even put any bug spray on.

  11. Pat, the Flying Melon is open. I believe they are open Wednesday - Saturday. If anyone else has more accurate information please leave a comment.

  12. Anonymous7:00 AM

    Many thanks, Philip. We'll be in Ocracoke for 1-1/2 wks. and Flying Melon is our favorite restaurant.

    We'll be stopping in at Village Craftsmen as usual.

    Again, Thank you so much.


  13. Anonymous8:42 PM

    Was @ nps campground 3 miles out town on 5/19/12 thru 5/21/12 & the mosquitoes were horrific ! My Labrador was bitten so bad on her face that she looked like a sharpa. I was using repel bug spray, but I still had over 100 mosquito bites. Walking thru the grass to the latrine would awaken a swarm. Think twice before tent camping there.

  14. Remember, there is no spraying on National Park Service property...and that includes the NPS campground. Sometimes the mosquitoes there are thick; at other times they are not bad. Depends on the weather and other factors.

  15. These mosquitoes have long been roaming around the world, and there’s nothing we can do yet to stop their manifestation for good. However, I’m glad there are programs for Mosquito Control that will temporarily avoid mosquitoes from spreading harmful diseases.