In the wake of the deluge that swept through Broward, submerging streets and flooding homes, another storm is now brewing: mosquitoes.
The mosquito season in Florida usually doesn’t start until late April showers create standing water, which the insects require to breed. However, severe flooding in Fort Lauderdale and other parts of the county has produced ideal circumstances for many mosquitoes. On Saturday, entire neighborhoods’ streets were still underwater.
“Mosquito populations are just absolutely set to boom right now,” said Eric Vincent, the owner of Mosquito Shield of Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale. “There’s the perfect amount of heat, the perfect amount of humidity. All the standing water is taking over most of the county.”
Mosquito eggs can remain latent for a year. In most cases, they require water to hatch, which was scarce in South Florida this year due to the dry winter.
According to Anh Ton, deputy director of Broward County Public Works, which manages the Mosquito Control Division, South Floridians can expect an invasion by Monday.
The eggs typically begin hatching between three days and a week after a heavy rain, Vincent said.
According to Ton, Broward’s Mosquito Control Division is already seeing an “uptick” in calls, with roughly 150 calls per day, double what they usually see in April.
The division increased its operations on Thursday, bringing in additional personnel. It will continue to work through the weekend, spraying the floodwater with larvicide during the day and adulticide at night.
Ton claims that the products they employ are not harmful to humans, pets, or fish.
The division focuses on the hardest-hit neighborhoods, mostly in Fort Lauderdale’s eastern portion, including Edgewood and other places near the airport.
If the conditions worsen, which Ton expects, the county is also planning to use a plane to spray adulticide from the air, a “very unusual” measure for the county to take this time of year, he said. The county typically uses a plane once or twice a year, deep in the summer when mosquitoes are most active.
The plane would mainly spray on the county’s west side, freeing up trucks and ground forces on the east side.
Vincent’s team also works weekends, runs all three mosquito-control vehicles, and uses insect growth regulators, or IGRs, to keep mosquitoes from reproducing. He said that the public and private sectors would need to be “out in full force” to fight them.
The mosquitoes may also be carrying diseases. Ton’s team is trapping the adult mosquitoes and testing them to see if the types that carry diseases are prevalent. So far, they have not found any with the disease, he said.
Officials with the health department and the city of Fort Lauderdale are already warning residents to take preemptive measures.
The Florida Department of Health in Broward released a mosquito advisory Friday with tips for residents.
“The Florida Department of Health in Broward County reminds everyone to do their part in preventing mosquito breeding and mosquito-borne illness,” the DOH advisory states. “All Florida residents and visitors are asked to Drain and Cover to help keep our families and neighbors safe.”
Forecasters forecast heavy rain and thunderstorms in the following days, which will undoubtedly exacerbate both flooding and mosquito conditions.
Though a dry Saturday will provide some “reprieve,” Shawn Bhatti, a National Weather Service Miami meteorologist, predicts that Sunday and Monday could see 1-3 inches of further rain.
Severe thunderstorms are also possible Sunday, along with “localized flash flooding, even for areas already hit,” Bhatti said. The weather will finally clear up by Tuesday.
Looking long-term, the region may have a slightly drier rainy season this year because of El Nino, Bhatti said. South Florida’s rainy season officially begins on May 15.
Drain water from garbage cans, house gutters, buckets, pool covers, coolers, toys, flower pots or any other containers where sprinkler or rainwater has collected.
Discard old tires, drums, bottles, cans, pots and pans, broken appliances, and other items that aren’t being used.
Empty and clean birdbaths and pets’ water bowls at least once weekly. Protect boats and vehicles from rain with tarps that don’t accumulate moisture.
Maintain swimming pools, keeping them appropriately chlorinated. Empty plastic swimming pools when not in use.
Tightly cover water storage containers (buckets, cisterns, rain barrels) so mosquitoes cannot get inside to lay eggs. Use wire mesh with holes smaller than an adult mosquito for containers without lids.
Fill tree holes to prevent them from filling with water.
If you have a septic tank, repair cracks or gaps. Cover open vents or plumbing pipes. Use wire mesh with holes smaller than an adult mosquito.
Wear shoes, socks, long pants, and long sleeves. This type of protection may be necessary for people who must work in areas where mosquitoes are present. Apply mosquito repellent to bare skin and clothing.
Fort Lauderdale residents can report any mosquito infestations to the 24/7 Customer Service Center at 954-828-8000. Broward County residents can request free service through the Mosquito Service Request Form or by calling 311.
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