Here’s what’s bugging some sound-side residents

By on April 19, 2013

(Napa County Mosquito Abatement District)

(Napa County Mosquito Abatement District)

Large numbers of pesky insects have been swarming in local sound-side neighborhoods, leaving some residents feeling a little bugged out.

But mosquito experts say the creepy flyers are more of a nuisance than anything else.

Called midges, the mosquito-looking creatures are common around coastal areas and large bodies of water.

They are often referred to as “blind mosquitoes” or “fuzzy bills” because of the male’s bushy antennae.

Midges don’t bite or carry disease, according to Dare County Vector Control Supervisor Carl Walker.

Compared to previous years, Walker has received more calls than usual about the midges. Well over 20 have come in this spring. Typically, Walker said, he gets only one or two calls.

According to North Carolina Cooperative Extension, most species of midges are desirable in aquatic habitats. They provide an important food source for fish and predatory aquatic insects. The larvae help the aquatic environment by consuming and recycling organic debris.

But they can be rather annoying to humans.

Kill Devil Hills resident Marti Thoms said that while the midges are still creating somewhat of a nuisance in her neighborhood, their numbers dwindled a bit with the cooler weather and rain. At one point, she said, it was unbearable.

“We would see a flock of them over the sound,” Thoms said. “At first, I thought it was just a dark cloud. And you could even hear them when it was really bad. If you had the light on, you couldn’t even see the white of the door.”

Adult midges are weak flyers and tend to be blown ashore, according to information provided by the extension center. “Swarms of adults may be so dense that they may interfere with outdoor activities and stain walls, cars and other surfaces upon which they rest,” the center’s literature on the insects says.

Midges are attracted to lights and may hoard around window screens as well as porch and street lights. Reducing or eliminating exterior lighting at night around your house and closing window shades can help minimize their presence. Subdued walkway or landscape lighting is also helpful as well as reducing the amount of lampposts and floodlights burning.

But midges are off the radar for the county’s vector specialists, who are much more zeroed in to the real rulers of all flying pests: mosquitoes.

“When they hatch, we will be ready,” says Walker. “It could be any day now with the warmer temperatures we’ve been having.”

County workers have completed the larvicide phase of its yearly battle against the winged pests. Made up of microbial insecticides and insect growth regulators, larvicide is applied to standing water. The IGRs last up to 150 days in water.

In addition, briquettes in drop boxes are placed around the county. This phase is aimed at eliminating mosquito eggs and larvae before they reach adulthood. The briquettes’ effectiveness lasts between 90 and 120 days.

Adulticiding will begin after the first hatch and will be applied by sprayers from county trucks. The insecticides used in Dare County are permethrin-based and are dispensed in very fine aerosol droplets that stay airborne and kill mosquitoes on contact.

The first hatch of mosquitoes is typically around mid-May, but Walker said it could be much earlier. “We have our sprayers ready,” he added.

Other control methods include the introduction of predators of mosquitoes, such as purple martins, bats and minnows. Since mosquitoes can breed in any standing water, residents are encouraged to dispose of containers that may store water such as tires, plastic containers and discarded pools.

Routinely cleaning clogged gutters and draining irrigation pipes can also help control mosquito populations, as well as drilling holes in the bottoms of trash receptacles.

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