1 1 1 THE BRUNSWKICfelSEACON
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Mosquito Surveillance Just A Part Of
Hickman's Unusual Job
BY TKKRY POPE
You could say thai Rick Hickman's
fascination with mosquitoes goes be
neath the surface. He is itching to
prove a point ? when it comes to
mosquitoes, man is his own worst enemy.
As director of Brunswick County
Mosquito Control, this is the time of year
when Hickman's phone rings off the hook.
While people head outdoors to enjoy a
round of golf, a cookoul on the patio or a
quiet fishing trip to the pond, uninvited
mosquitoes arrive to ruin the outing.
Hickman must gather mosquito data each
year to receive state funds used to help bat
tle the mosquito population in Brunswick
County. His crew of two full-time employ
ees and four part-time sprayers must cover
lXK) square miles of county territory and us
coastal dredge spoil islands.
In his office are containers of mosquito
larvae and journals detailing species
surveillance from Navassa to Calabash. A
light trap set at Orion Plantation one night
captured over 2,(XX) mosquitoes recently
and contained 20 different species, said
Hickman, who lives at Hickman's
Most people think a mosquito is just a
mosquito, but Hickman has identified 41
different species living in Brunswick
County. One species of mosquitoes will on
ly bite frogs, he said. Many species will bite
It takes five days for mosquitoes to hatch
from standing water, where adult
mosquitoes lay their eggs. They can thrive
in old tires, clogged gutters and ditches,
birdbaths, beer cans, buckets left lying
around the home and areas where streams
stagnate from excessive storm water runoff.
Hickman hopes his experiment can prove
that tlif most aggressive mosquitoes, the
MOSQUITO IARVAE are collected
from people 's yards to serve as part of
Hickman 's experiment.
Uiwi/iri'inwic rt- STAFF PHOTOS BY TtRRV PC
a/C a ///CaAMA S office also serves as a laboratory to study the 4! different breeds of tnosauitoes he has identified as liv
ing in Brunswick County.
ones thai wander onto golf courses and into
people's yards to hunt for blood, arc those
that breed in artificial containers left lying
around the homes. Natural breeding
mosquitoes usually stay in wooded areas,
where their populations arc controlled by
mosquito-eating insects, he said.
Local ponds arc the least likely place to
breed mosquitoes because of the natural en
emies that also live in the water. Bats and
dragonflics that hang around the home cat
hundreds of mosquitoes daily.
Therefore, man can help zap the
mosquito problem by picking up trash
around the yard and by draining their prop
erty of standing water before the
mosquitoes arrive, he said. Fifteen different
species arc known to breed in old urcs and
five species in birdbaths or beer cans.
"If it wasn't for artificial containers,
some breeds would disappear," said
Hickman. "The most disease-carrying
mosquitoes known to man would disap
For 16 years, Hickman has been studying
"Man can help zap the
mosquito problem by
picking up trash around
the yard and by draining
their property of stand
ing water before the
? Rick Hickman
Director. Mosquito Control
mosquitoes and ways to combat them in
Brunswick County. He is a sell-taught
mosquito expert hut did study biological
science in college. A microscope on his
desk is used to differentiate the species he
collects from across the county.
The county spends an average of 85 ccnis
per resident on mosquito control each year.
People question why more money can't he
spent to get rid of the pests, but Hickman
says no one can possibly determine how
much money it would take to gel rid ol
them for good.
Public outcry is worst during the summer
rainy season. Last year, his office received
320 complaints from residents. 75 percent
of which came from persons living on the
coast and 25 percent from rural areas.
"We're not going to get into litis situation
all of the time," said Hickman. "To pay peo
ple to sit around when it's not raining, the
county isn't going to go for thai. Yet when
there is a mosquito outbreak, we were sup
pose to stop it from happening. We did try,
but we didn't even make a dent in them."
This summer, the mosquitoes seem to be
worst than in previous years. When he de
scribes Brunswick County's mosquito prob
lem. Hickman notes a difference between
coastal mosquitoes and rural mosquitivs.
Hickman believes the coastal mosquito
problem actually began two summers ago
with Hurricane Hugo, which salini/cd peo
pic's yards, streams and bottom areas,
turning freshwater breeding sites into sail
marsh breeding grounds.
'I he Salt Marsh mosquito population, a
large species, \%as thrust into such numbers
by Hugo that the coastal areas still haven't
recovered, said llicktnan. The inner dunes
and vacant lots at Holden Beach are cur
rently the worst s|hi|s hi the county, lie
"They breed in such numbers that there's
not enough animals to feed them," he said.
"This rainfall has turned loose everyone ol
In rural areas, the battle is against the
I Southern Kite Held mosquito and the
I Gallinipper, one ol the largest species
known to man.
"'Hie species Unit we're dealing with now
is not the number one species that wc were
dealing with years ago," said Hickman
"There are six species that are causing basic
problems for us right now."
He calls mosquitoes the ultimate sur
vivor. They form a resistance to sprays and
change their habits to lool man. When man
thinks he has whipped a species, along
comes another to take lis place.
"They are the lirst really compact and
moveable land animal and still the most
abundant." said Hickman. "The reason
they're still around is their adaptability. If
you ligure you've finally got the handle on
them, it's time to change your approach."
A single mosquito can hitch a ride inside
a person's car and later cause a mosquito
outbreak at that person's home. A caller last
week told Hickman, "I don't understand
why you can't do away with a lowly
"I always did call it mission impossible,"
he added, "but this year it's been more than
The excessive rainfall alone didn't trigger
this year's mosquito outbreak, he argues.
"It's what we did as a socicty before the
rainfall began," he adds. "I don't get any
complaints out ol the Green Swamp."
It will be recorded as one (if the hottest
and wettest summers on record in
Brunswick County. It will also be noted as
one of Hickman's busiest.
Hickman hopes the data he gathers will
one day educate the public on how they can
take a bite out of the mosquito population.
Meanwhile, his surveillance continues.
Dark shirts help to identify the mosquito
species when they land while he's out in the
held. Tiiey turn their white feel upward
when chiHising a place to bite. But this
lime, the viciim knows more about them
than they know about themselves.
He gathers up their breeding container
and carries it to his oil ice for further study.
Perhaps one day. the lowlv mosquito w ill be
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