SOUTHEASTERN NC (WECT) - Crews in Brunswick County are spraying for mosquitoes using threes airplanes starting Tuesday night, and the public is asked to stay inside during evening hours.
On Tuesday afternoon, the county shared an updated map and schedule after announcing the move in the wake of Hurricane Florence.
"Spraying will be from just before dusk till approximately 10:30 p.m.," said Amanda Hutcheson, Brunswick County public information officer. "Citizens in the areas being sprayed should avoid being outside during evening hours if possible."
Aerial spraying at 300 feet above the ground for mosquitoes will continue through Thursday and all towns, cities and islands are included in the aerial spraying, said Hutcheson.
Vector Disease Control International (V.D.C.I.) is conducting the spraying and will fly out of Wilmington International Airport, said Hutcheson.
“This process starts after every hurricane. We’ve worked every hurricane since 1996,” said Malcolm Williams, manager of Aerial Division for V.D.C.I.
First, the county determines which areas need spraying for mosquitoes. The county also selects the pesticide the company will use.
Next, the county shares the aerial map data with the company pilots, who conduct daytime pre-flights to check for any obstacles.
"The aircraft goes up and it flies at 300 foot at night above the ground. They have to go out in the daytime and do a pre-flight looking for obstacles and towers and things like that, and input that into the GPS system."
Aircraft technology uses weather data at release height to correct for drift in the spray cloud.
The three planes that V.D.C.I is using will spray naled, an insecticide sprayed aerially as small droplets that kills adult mosquitoes upon contact.
“The reason people use (naled) is because it works 95 percent of the time. And it’s not so contingent on weather conditions. It’s so heavy that it actually comes down. Where with these lighter products, they’re so hard to control, you don’t know where it’s going," said Williams.
Naled does not pose any harm to humans or wildlife on the ground, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“When applied according to label instructions, EPA does not expect the use of naled for public health mosquito control to raise a human health concern,” according to the EPA.
“Because of the small amount of naled released... exposures are below an amount that might be expected to pose a health concern to children or adults," the EPA explains.
In Brunswick County for these post-Florence sprays, the planes will spray naled as 30 micron droplets -- about the diameter of a human hair.
“In this particular application, we’re only using 0.66 ounces (of naled) per acre. That’s less than what’s in a packet of sweetener, like Sweet n' Low,” said Williams.
It only takes one droplet to kill an adult mosquito, said Williams.
“It won’t kill anything larger than a mosquito," said Williams, explaining that dusk and night sprays also reduce the likelihood that beneficial insects will be outside.
On Tuesday night, crews will spray by air on the southern coastline and northwestern portions of Brunswick County. This includes Bald Head Island, Caswell Beach, Oak Island, Holden Beach, Ocean Isle Beach, and areas off of Whiteville Road, Pireway Road, and Green Swamp Road.
“These routes are weather-dependent and subject to change,” said Hutcheson. “Ground-based operations will begin follow-up ground spraying after evaluation.”
The spraying is conducted to lower mosquito populations to reduce the risk of people getting sick from West Nile virus and other pathogens.
Nathan Ingram, who lives in Oak Island, is grateful the county is spraying for mosquitoes because he has seen the population explode since Florence.
“They’re not usually that bad normally... But after the storm they were about the size of a golf ball," said Ingram. "I go deer hunting every afternoon, it’s like a swarm of bees. You look up in the sky and it’s just millions of them. It’s the thickest I’ve ever seen it.”
Pender County Health and Human Services said in a news release Tuesday it is not using aerial spraying.
“We value our beekeepers, organic farms, and our natural resources," said Carolyn Moser, Pender County Health and Human Services director. “An aerial spray may not provide the targeted treatment Pender County needs right now.”
“A vector (aerial) spray would be costly. The aerial spray may last four days, depending on weather, and it kills adult mosquitos only. It doesn’t include larvicidal applications that kill mosquito eggs.”
Spraying by truck offers both chemical and larvicidal applications and the chemical works for seven days, according to the Pender release.
Moser said spraying started immediately after the hurricane and that treatments continue.
“We’re addressing the mosquito problem,” said Moser. “We are spraying all areas of the county, four hours in the morning and four hours in the evening.”