FORT WALTON BEACH — The buzz at AccuWeather.com is that Northwest Florida, like much of the Southeast, can expect a lot of mosquito activity for at least the next two weeks. Local authorities, however, aren't necessarily biting on that forecast.
Whatever the projections from AccuWeather.com, Okaloosa County hasn't seen any particular increase in mosquito activity, according to Matt Fish, a spray technician with the county's Mosquito Control office.
It's the same in northern Walton County, according to North Walton Mosquito Control Director Brenda Hunt. There, spraying and other controls have been proceeding normally, she said, and her office has received only a handful of calls.
In Okaloosa County over the past several days, Mosquito Control has received just four work orders, down from the normal six to eight work orders, Fish said. One possible reason, he said, is that water from recent rains has disappeared quickly.
"As much rain as we've gotten recently, there's really not a whole lot of standing water," Fish said. Standing water is a favorite breeding ground for mosquitoes, and for whatever reason, it hasn't been an issue in Okaloosa County, according to Fish.
Which isn't to say mosquito control personnel are taking anything for granted. Recently, Fish said, technicians have been placing larvicides — chemicals that kill mosquito larvae — around the county. Part of the reason, he said, is anticipation of a warm autumn, which could facilitate mosquito breeding.
"This was the hottest September we've ever had," Fish said.
Temperature is key to the AccuWeather.com mosquito forecast, according to Michael Steinberg, a senior meteorologist at the weather website. The forecast is Steinberg's brainchild, the result of poring over scholarly research and other data.
"I researched their life cycle, and how they came to be in certain areas," Steinberg explained.
The forecast ranks the probability of mosquito activity on a five-step scale from "low" to "extreme." The daily forecast, available at AccuWeather.com on a color-coded map as well as notations in local forecasts, considers factors including the "breeding environment," Steinberg said. Breeding environment calculations include assessments of rainfall, and the associated presence of standing water.
Also included in the mosquito forecast is the likelihood that breeding will occur on any given day, Steinberg said. Broadly speaking, the warmer it is, the more likely mosquitoes will breed, he explained.
The final element in the calculation is the effect of weather on mosquito larvae. Generally, the warmer the weather, the shorter the time for mosquitoes to hatch. The time frame for mosquito incubation, Steinberg said, "can be anywhere from about 15 to as many as 70 days."
Regardless of whether the AccuWeather.com forecast will prove accurate locally, there are steps that residents can take to reduce mosquito breeding.
Okaloosa County Mosquito Control, online, offers numerous suggestions, from keeping gutters cleaned, to dumping anything that holds water to mowing regularly.