Georgetown County residents will hopefully see fewer mosquitos around their homes this summer. The Georgetown County Mosquito Control Division is employing more spray truck drivers this year, and it’s also trying out new methods of mosquito elimination that are so far proving to be more effective. Even better, these new methods are also better for the environment.
Mosquito Control has ditched the old chemicals it once sprayed up and down the county’s roads and replaced them with a new organic product that is advertised to be safe for wildlife, pollinators and people. More repellent than poison, it’s on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Minimum Risk Pesticides list and uses natural ingredients including lemongrass, cedarwood, garlic and rosemary. Effects from application can last up to two weeks.
“It has some big advantages over the chemicals we used in the past,” said Roban Mears Jr., who manages the county’s Mosquito Control operations. “The product we used in the past, you spray it and it kills what’s flying, then dissipates.”
If it didn’t dissipate, it would continue to poison anything it came in contact with, including other insects, wildlife, pets and people.
“Once it dissipated, that was it. You didn’t get any more effect from it. It killed what it touched and didn’t hang around. These new products have residual effects, so they keep working.”
The results are promising so far. Requests to Georgetown County Mosquito Control are down significantly this year over the same period in previous years. Whereas dozens of calls used to come in every day, there have been fewer than 10 a day this month. Mears said he believes this is due to a variety of steps Mosquito Control has taken this year, including the switch to a longer-lasting product that can work in between sprays.
The county is also able to spray more often thanks to the addition of a new spray truck and two new drivers. The county now has a total of five part-time spray truck drivers and four tucks. It also filled two full-time staff positions in the division.
“We’re able to cover twice the area now that we were able to cover in the past,” Mears said. “We have a total of 41 spray routes. There’s no way we could hit them all every week, but now they can each get sprayed at least once every two weeks.”
The spray trucks got upgraded equipment this year too. This includes new sprayers that work more efficiently and are easier for the drivers to use. There’s also new software that provides better tracking of vehicle location and speed. This means Mears can see exactly what route the trucks have traveled, what speed they were traveling at and when the sprayer was turned on or off.
A new drone was also added to the Division’s arsenal and allows staff to treat areas it couldn’t reach otherwise, such as over open water and wetlands.
Many of the changes made this year have been in the works for some time now. Staff spent about two years researching before it settled on the new spray product. The division’s leadership was eager to find a more environmentally friendly option, but it had to work as well as the old chemicals. The product that was ultimately selected had mostly been used by individual homeowners and never on a larger scale with a spray truck. The county worked – and is still working – closely with the manufacturer to refine the formula and mix ratios for large scale use.
“We’re still tailoring it, but it seems to be working well,” Mears said.
The Mosquito Control Division uses a number of methods to track the mosquito population in various areas and determine which areas most need spraying. These include resident request, landing counts and checking mosquito traps. This year, the county also introduced qualified observers, who are trained to report on mosquito populations in their neighborhoods. The information these observers provide is generally more detailed and accurate than that from general resident reports.
Increased public education on mosquito control is also one of the county’s goals this year. Mears and his staff are happy to talk with community groups about mosquito control efforts and how residents can help keep mosquito populations under control on their own properties.
For more information, including this week’s spray route, visit our Mosquito Control page.
Residents who need to request mosquito spraying may do so at our online request page or by calling (843) 545-3615.