Several weeks have passed since Hurricane Ian completely devastated regions of Florida’s coast and its outlying communities. However, while structural damage and death tolls have been at the forefront of national headlines, Floridians affected by the Category 4 storm are stuck battling another threat: hordes of potentially disease-carrying mosquitoes.
NBC News reports that hordes of mosquitoes have thrived in the floodwaters left behind by Hurricane Ian. The bugs pose yet another potential hazard to affected residents. In order to combat the troublesome swarms, planes have begun dropping pesticides over hundreds of thousands of acres.
The mosquitoes pose a health risk to Floridians simply trying to piece their lives back together in the wake of Hurricane Ian. However, the hordes have also begun to take a financial toll on the already-struggling state. In recent weeks, state and local officials have dropped millions of dollars in the fight against the nuisance insects.
As we’ve seen, coverage of damage left behind by Hurricane Ian has dwindled in recent weeks. And it’s primarily because the immediate devastation attracts our attention. However, the news outlet further stated that other serious threats often follow such massive storms. These include bacterial infections, respiratory diseases, and, overall, illnesses spread by pests. Mosquitoes, for example, are known to carry and spread diseases such as West Nile virus and St. Louis encephalitis.
Daniel Markowski, a technical advisor for the American Mosquito Control Association, spoke out about the realities that accompany such massive hordes of insects.
“Imagine a couple thousand [mosquitoes] coming at you,” he said. “That’s the big concern after hurricanes and large flooding events. The sheer number of mosquitoes can make any daily life activity horrendous.”
Future Flood Events Like Hurricane Ian Could Result in More Mosquito Hordes
Unfortunately, Hurricane Ian probably isn’t the last major weather event to bring with it hordes of mosquitoes. With climate change resulting in worsening severe weather conditions, scientists believe future storms will see the same aftereffects.
In the case of Hurricane Ian, mosquito counts in Lee County traps began increasing about a week after the storm. Lee County, which is where Fort Meyers is located, is one of the areas hardest hit by the Cat-4 storm. The traps are just one of multiple methods state mosquito control workers use to monitor potential disease outbreaks from pests.
For perspective, in October of last year, Lee County traps captured around 34,000 mosquitoes. By October 12th, 2022, those same traps collected more than 107,000 of the flying pests, speaking to the influence storms like Hurricane Ian have on Floridian communities.
Other counties saw even more significant increases in mosquito populations, with Brevard County, on Florida’s opposite coast, capturing nearly two dozen times as many of the pests as is the standard baselines count.