By Jessica Tuggle
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY - The official state bird is the mockingbird, and the state butterfly is a zebra longwing, but if there was a category for state bug, a mosquito would likely win the nomination.
All mosquitoes start off in watery places and Indian River County is a popular place for those that like saltmarshes and freshwater breeding places.
Even though the rainy season in the county is starting to pick up, local experts say the mosquito population is quite manageable at the moment.
"The basic role of our district is to make it more comfortable for people," said Donald Shroyer, medical entomologist with the Indian River Mosquito Control District.
"We haven't had to send out the spray trucks for several weeks now," he said.
The mosquito control district monitors and manages the mosquito population in the county by watching water levels of areas known to be mosquito breeding grounds, checking for mosquitoes carrying human disease and spraying to exterminate flying adult mosquitoes when it becomes necessary, Mr. Shroyer said.
"We will never be able to eliminate all the pests but we can help the situation," he said.
Currently, there are no reports of any of the three mosquito-transmitted viruses - West Nile encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis and eastern equine encephalitis - in Indian River County.
"Not all mosquitoes are carriers of disease, some just make life uncomfortable," Mr. Shroyer said.
The wetlands in the county, including the saltmarshes and the citrus groves, are utopia for breeding large amounts of mosquitoes. Field inspectors routinely visit those known areas and will apply larvicide to kill the mosquitoes. To help stem the population on a larger scale, a small aircraft can be contracted to drop granular larvicides.
Trucks with chemicals targeting adult mosquitoes flying around can sometimes been seen driving around at night if the wind is low, Mr. Shroyer said.
"Residents can help the mosquito control district by ensuring their yards aren't breeding grounds for the pesky bugs as well," Mr. Shroyer said.
Birdbaths and gutters have the potential for gathering lots of bacteria that mosquitoes in the larvae stage feed on, so keeping those areas clean and clear can keep the mosquito population on your own turf much lower.
Landscaping can also make a different, Mr. Shroyer said.
Bromeliads, a popular tropical plant, often hold water inside them that mosquito can find.
"If you flush them out, you can avoid a bunch of mosquitoes near your front door," Mr. Shroyer said.
The office of the Indian River Mosquito Control District is located at 5655 41st St., Vero Beach. For more information about the district, call (772) 562-2393 or visit www.irmosquito.com.