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Wednesday, August 25, 1999

Bret brings mosquitoes, other pests

Spraying will begin in Calallen, move east

By Tamara Hill
Caller-Times

 

As Hurricane Bret swept through the Coastal Bend, it washed away homes of insects, rodents and reptiles, which now are seeking dry ground, hatching grounds, shelter and food.
   Perhaps, in a backyard near you.
   Mosquitoes are the biggest threat by far, said Dr. Daniel Sprenger, director of the vector control division of the Corpus Christi-Nueces County Public Health District.
   Some mosquitoes lay eggs on dry land with hopes that large rain puddles will follow. When large bodies of still water fill the ground, larvae hatch from the eggs and a new generation of stinging mosquitoes are born.
   Residents can expect mosquitoes by the end of the week, but vector control is spraying insecticide in ditches and salt marshes, Sprenger said.
   Traditionally, the hardest hit area is along the Nueces River, so the public health district will be spraying in the Annaville and Calallen areas and moving toward Corpus Christi, Padre Island and Flour Bluff.
   "We would like to encourage people to remove water-filled containers like tires, dishes under potted plants, empty gutters - wherever water builds up, there's a possibility (for mosquitoes)."
   Besides being annoying, mosquitoes have the potential to transmit disease. Cases of dengue fever, a virus marked by fever, rash and severe headache, have been reported recently in Mexico and Laredo. But health officials said Corpus Christi residents are not at risk for the disease unless an infected person comes to the city, is bitten by a mosquito and the mosquito spreads the virus to others.
   The scenario is possible but unlikely, said Alfa Garza, an employee with the vector control division of the city-county health department. More likely is an invasion of fire ants, seeking new homes.
   Fire ants typically live in large mounds outside the home, but floodwaters may have washed the ants atop puddles, said Jeff Beynon, city director of animal control. . Because the ants don't want to drown, they may start climbing nearby trees or the side of a house.
   As for frogs, let them alone and they'll feast on insect pests, Beynon said.
   Residents also should look out for mice, rats and snakes that may be searching for food and dry land, said Trey Bethke, extension agent-pest management for the A&M Agricultural Extension Service.
   Residents should be cautious when cleaning their yards.
   "Snakes are beneficial because their main prey are rats and other rodents," Beynon said. "You don't necessarily have to kill (snakes) unless they're rattlesnakes. Just shoo it away. It's just as scared of you as you are of it."
   The best way to prevent pests is to keep homes clean and secure, Beynon said.
   "Reduce food sources, be sure your home is sealed properly, weather-stripping intact and good screens on windows," Beynon said. "Try to make your home pest-resistant before going through the trouble with pesticides."
  
  




Staff writer Tamara Hill can be reached at 886-3794 or by e-mail at hillt@caller.com

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