Weather patterns complicate farming, mosquito abatement

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 10, 2011



LAPLACE – Although the River Parishes are still technically dealing with drought conditions, heavy rains over the past few weeks have put a dent in the total rainfall deficit, but those rains may have also affected the mosquito population in the area.

Steve Pavlovich, an entomologist with Mosquito Control Services, which manages the mosquito population for the region, said the recent heavy rains can be seen as both good news and bad news.

Pavlovich explained that when the repeated regular rainfall started a few weeks ago the mosquito population experienced a spike that lasted over the past 10 or so days. He said Mosquito Control had been aggressively spraying in neighborhoods to keep the numbers down, but they too are dodging the rainstorms in the evenings.

“It is hard to get trucks out to spray when the rain is constant in the evening,” Pavlovich said. “The population numbers are not excessive, but we are finding some areas where there are noticeable increases.

Pavlovich said the major increases are found in neighborhoods on the west bank of St. Charles and St. John the Baptist Parishes, in parts of northern Ormond near Airline Highway and also portions of Garyville and eastern LaPlace.

“The numbers have come down from what they were a few weeks ago, but another spike is expected,” Pavlovich said.

One positive of the increased rainfall, according to Pavlovich, is it has opened up the opportunity for the flushing out of containers and ditches that usually hold stagnant water where mosquitoes known to carry disease commonly breed. The downside to that is the residual pooling and puddling on the ground following the rain is also a good breeding ground for another more aggressive mosquito breed.

“The best thing we can say to combat the problem is simple yard management,” Pavlovich said. “A container as small as a bottle cap can serve as a breeding ground, so we always urge people to make sure stagnant water is poured out wherever possible. We also recommend repellent and long sleeved clothing in the evening hours.”

Meanwhile, agricultural officials say the rains have helped area farmers return to normal, but rainfall totals are still about three to five inches below average.

David Pichon, LSU AgCenter county agent for St. John Parish, said some farmers are seeing the effects of the drought, but the popular crop in the region, sugarcane, continues to flourish.

“Sugarcane is so adaptable,” Pichon said. “We are seeing some issues with height and barrel size, but the crop is still manageable.”

Pichon said the major problem residents will have to deal with as a result of the dry conditions is the damage to lawns in the area that haven’t been getting regular watering.

“We are seeing a lot of lawns yellowing and dying because of lack of rain,” Pichon said. “Running the sprinkler is sometimes just not enough. You need the kind of soaking we have seen recently.”

As bad as the effects of the drought have been on the area, Pichon said it still is not as bad as the effects of freezing temperatures in the winter months. He said as long as farmers can get out to water and tend to crops they will be fine, but it is much harder to deal with a freeze.

“There is not much you can do sometimes,” he said. “Drought is bad, but it can always be worse. Thankfully the late July and early August rainy season is here to give us some relief.”