The air around North Side has been so thick with mosquitoes in recent weeks that Carol Saunds makes her sons wear a protective rash guard before they go outside.
At the kids after-school programme, coordinator Nerrie Campbell keeps the children “inside more than out”, because of the mosquito menace.
The district’s representative in the Legislative Assembly, Ezzard Miller, says North Side is facing the worst infestation it has seen in more than 50 years.
“The mosquitoes have not been this thick since the 1960s,” Miller said.
“In some areas residents cannot go outside even in the middle of the day and schoolchildren cannot play on the field unless they are covered in bug spray. This is terrible and unacceptable in modern-day Cayman,” he said.
Mosquito Research and Control Unit director Jim McNelly acknowledged that the Cayman Islands was facing a “bad infestation” of swamp mosquitoes.
He said above average populations had been seen since May, first in North Side and East End, but also in West Bay and other parts of the island.
He accepted that surveillance units – which monitor the mangrove swamps – had failed to pick up on an increase in larvae production earlier this year, contributing to the recent infestation.
He added that “low inventory” of a chemical used to target adult mosquitoes had compounded the problem. He said the MRCU was in the process of switching to a different chemical from a different supplier, and that process had led to stocks running low. He expects new supplies to be on island next week and the spray plane, which has been grounded since Friday, to resume its work.
He acknowledged the unit “could have played the situation better” and vowed to learn lessons from the experience and beef up surveillance in the swamps.
“It is disappointing that it has got to this point where people are being impacted,” he added.
Concerns over the issue were brought to light by Miller, who issued a press release Wednesday morning calling on government and the MRCU to explain why the spray plane had not been in action. Miller highlighted an apparent shortage of chemicals among a number of concerns about mosquito control and questioned why there had been no request for supplementary funding.
Miller said in his statement that there was no excuse for not having chemicals in stock.
“Such incompetence at all levels cannot and should not be tolerated by Caymanians,” he added.
North Side residents told the Compass the mosquito situation was the worst they could remember.
Saunds, president of the Parent Teacher Association at Edna Moyle Primary School, said, “The situation is intolerable. Inside the house, outside the house, at all times of day, they are everywhere.
“I have lived in North Side for 10 years and I have never experienced an avalanche of mosquitoes like this.”
Campbell, who runs the kids after-school programme, said it was difficult to go outside at any time of day without repellent.
“We keep the children inside more than out,” she said, “and if they are outside we have to keep them on the run.
“I live in North Side too, and there are so [many] mosquitoes right now, we don’t know what is going on.”