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Energy & Environment

Another Post-Florence Worry: Swarming Mosquitoes

A house was flooded in Columbus County.
David Boraks
Flood waters in low-lying area have become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Complaints about mosquitoes are on the rise across North Carolina after Hurricane Florence. They're plentiful and in some cases a lot bigger than what we're used to. 

Last week, Governor Roy Cooper announced $4 million for mosquito control in more than two dozen counties covered by major disaster declarations after Florence. But the problem isn't limited to the hardest-hit counties. Complaints about mosquitoes in Mecklenburg County are four times normal for this time of year, said Mecklenburg County senior environmentalist James Bjorneboe.

"Most of the complaints I get have been centered around areas that are fairly low lying, like along greenway trails that, with all that rain, have just flooded people's backyards. And that floods all the dormant eggs that have been sitting there," Bjorneboe said.

All that water causes the eggs to hatch into larvae. Adult mosquitoes can begin swarming within a week, Bjorneboe said.

Calls began picking up last week, he said. Investigators check complaints and where they find larvae, they treat standing water with a bacteria that kills them.

Besides the larger number of mosquitoes, some are larger than we're used to - dwarfing your typical backyard tiger mosquito. One that's been turning up is called psorophora, or gallinipper. They can grow as large as a nickel, Bjorneboe said. 

"They're big mosquitoes. They'll bite through your shirt. Generally speaking, all the mosquitoes in that genus are kind of heavier, chunkier mosquitoes and you tend to see them in floodplain-type areas," he said.

The bites can be nasty, too. He said county workers sometimes have dozens of the bugs on them at one time. The good news: They're mainly a nuisance, and do not carry diseases, Bjorneboe said.

With calls up so much, Bjorneboe said he's kept his interns around an extra week to help with investigation and treatment.