September 30, 2011 Facebook TwitterMore...

Island Living: Attack of the Kinnaskeeter


You got to respect Hatteras and Ocracoke islanders.

You throw something bad at them like, say, a Jurassic Park-esque environment complete with giant insect infestation, and they’ll come back with something fabulously and inappropriately funny to say about it.

Highlights from our local conversations this past week include the following:

“I felt special at first. I thought everyone I was passing [in my car] was waving at me… they weren’t. They were just swatting the mosquitoes away.”

“I went to a party covered in Deep Woods Off. Luckily, it was same perfume all the other ladies were wearing.”

And my personal favorite:

“In case you’re keeping score at home, this is plague number 2, right after floods. I just hope God decides to do locusts next, because I’m pretty sure they eat mosquitoes.”

So the upside of the Kinnaskeeter Uprising is that we all have something in common, and something to talk about. The downside is, of course -- and please excuses the horrible pun -- mosquitoes suck. 

It’s exhausting jogging all over the place waving your arms like you’re on fire, and frantically rolling the car windows up and down in failed attempts to drive out the “skeeters.”

It’s also tricky to carry on a conversation with someone in the Food Lion parking lot while wondering “Should I slap that mosquito off of her face? Will she be grateful or think that she just said something offensive? And worse, will she slap me back?”

And I miss being outside in the yard -- mowing, weeding, and cleaning up the ever-present leftover storm debris from Hurricane Irene. Okay, that one I don’t miss.

But it would be nice to get back to our regularly scheduled fall, where the beaches are gorgeous, the weather is warm with just a hint of a sharp breeze, and you don’t lose pints of blood on a daily basis.

So what’s the most practical way to deal with the mosquito situation?

I have a fantastic Plan A, and my strategy breaks down into 3 parts:

1. Since mosquitoes are supposedly attracted to humans when they exhale, invest in a diving suit.

2. Leave the mosquitoes I’ve killed right where they are in my house, car, and on my clothes to serve as a warning to others.

3. Slash the tires of the mosquito-spraying truck the next time it drives by my house.

So if you see a crazy lady wandering around Avon in scuba gear covered with dead mosquitoes and wielding a knife, no need to run in the other direction or call the authorities. It’s just me.

But if Plan A. fails for some reason, (and I don’t see how it possibly could), Dare County has stepped in and provided us with a Plan B.

Edward Mann, director of Dare County Public Works Office, and Carl Walker, the county “mosquito guy,” have been busy at work implementing a wide range of attack strategies to get the mosquito issue under control.

The big event for this weekend is the aerial spraying of the island, which is set to begin this evening at 6:30 p.m. and continuing until 2:30 a.m. Because they are not allowed to spray on federal land, the spraying will be concentrated within the village borders. If the weather does not permit the spraying this evening, it will be Saturday or Sunday evening, Oct. 1 and 2.

This is the second time this has been done this year, and the first spraying, which took place before the recent weeks of rain encouraged a new hatching, was incredibly successful.

The first spraying was several weeks after the hurricane, which dumped about seven inches of rain on parts of Dare County.

And after a spring and summer of drought conditions, we had more rain in persistent heavy storms for the past two weeks. At Hatteras, there have been 14.23 inches of rain this month, which leaves us eight inches above normal for the month and about four inches above normal for the year.

“The last time we did this (spraying), there were hardly any mosquitoes until we had another hatch,” says Mann, “And this is the optimal time to do it again, because they’re hatching right now.”

Hyde County also planned to spray last night or tonight.

As it turns out, a mosquito egg can last for years, even through a winter freeze, so getting them early is key.

And while you probably shouldn’t run around outside with your mouth open during the spraying, the overall affects are minimal at most, officials say.

“The aerial [application] is being sprayed at three quarters of an ounce per acre, and 80 percent never even hits the ground,” says Mann.

The county is also actively killing larva in ditches, with various liquids and pellets comprised of corn and fungicide that is shot into the water in GPS identified areas where the mosquito population is high.

“Standing water is everywhere, unfortunately,” says Mann, “but we can get the hot spots and treat them, as well as ditches. It’s overwhelming right now living there.”

The county even has “mosquito traps,” which are baited with dry ice and can catch thousands of mosquitoes on one in a short time.

“Last night, we had one trap in South Nags Head and one trap in Manns Harbor, and they trapped 24,000 mosquitoes in a 12-hour period,” Mann says.

In addition, the mosquito-spraying trucks will make regular runs around Hatteras Island again next week -- assuming they are able to escape my neighborhood with their tires intact -- and will continue to do so until the invasion subsides.

As for home remedies, Mann and Walker recommend finding any water-filled containers in your yard and dumping them immediately to keep mosquitoes from breeding. 

“Buckets, cans, bottle tops, tires -- anything that has standing water in it -- stand it over and get the water out of it,” says Mann.

Are the county’s methods as effective as a scuba diving suit and a pelt of mosquito carcasses?

Only time will tell, but the Public Works Department will continue to fight the mosquitoes until they are no longer able to fight back.

And in the meantime, it’s a safe bet that even as frustrating as the mosquito onslaught is, Hatteras and Ocracoke islanders will still somehow be able to grin and bear it.

(Joy Crist lives in Avon, also known as Kinnakeet, where her yard has been a mosquito nursery ever since the storm surge from Hurricane Irene.  If you see her, please slap the mosquito on her face.  She will understand.)

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