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City putting ‘sting’ on pesky mosquitoes

Brookhaven residents may not be aware of a pair of truckstraveling the streets at night, trailing a chemical mist ofmosquito death, but the city’s mosquito eradication plans are nowmoving into the second month.

Brookhaven Mosquito Control Director Billy Case said the citybegan spraying for mosquitoes on April 7, and the efforts willcontinue throughout the summer and into late fall, possibly as lateas November. Case said there was no real way to gauge the progressof the spraying, but so far he believes it’s keeping the pests incheck.

“We just have to go by complaints from residents, and so far wehaven’t had any – it’s working,” Case said.

Case said every area in the city receives an equal treatment ofinsecticide spray. The city is divided into four areas, and eacharea is thoroughly sprayed once per week. Spraying begins around6:30 p.m. and continues until around midnight – when mosquitoes aremost active.

Case said the spraying is only limited by weatherconditions.

“It’s all regulated by the outside temperature and wind,” hesaid. “Anytime the temperature is below 55 degrees or the wind ismore than 5 to 10 mph, you’re wasting your time, not hitting yourtarget zone. Mosquitoes are warm-blooded animals – anytime thetemperature is below 55, they’ll be looking for a warm place to be.And when the wind is blowing too much you don’t see them. No biggerthan they are, they can’t fly against the wind.”

Whenever those conditions can be avoided, the city trucks willroll.

The main chemical agent used in the spraying is pyrethrum, anatural insecticide extracted from certain species of thechrysanthemum flower. Discovered centuries ago, pyrethrum was usedin a powdered form to protect the French Army from body lice duringthe Napoleonic Wars. Today, extracted from the flower by solvents,it is sprayed into the air in Brookhaven. More information onpyrethrum can be found at www.livingwithbugs.com.

Case said pyrethrum was not harmful to humans or pets, and thatthe only collateral damage it caused was to certain species ofhoney bees.

“I wouldn’t just walk behind it and inhale it all day, but it’snot supposed to hurt you,” he said. “All of our chemicals havewarning labels, and there isn’t any skull and crossbones tellingyou it’s toxic to your health.”

With the spraying possibly continuing into November, themosquito eradication efforts would amount to 32 weeks and 128 tripsmade by the trucks. With the price of the chemicals, fuel, laborand wear and tear on the vehicles, the city is footing a large billin the battle against mosquitoes.

“Just for the chemical alone, we’re probably looking at around$25,000 average yearly price,” Case said. “Each drum of chemical Igo through is about $2,600, and we’re going through two drums aweek when the weather is right. We could actually end up spendingmore than that, but that’s what we’re budgeted.”

The fight does not end with spraying. Case said the city alsoutilizes larvaecide, like dissolving tablets called mosquito dunks,to contaminate the insects’ breeding grounds – pools of standingwater. The larvaecide the city uses is also not harmful to humansand pets, but suffocating to mosquitoes – it creates an oily filmon the water’s surface and keeps the larvae from breathing.

Case said the larvaecide is using along ditches, manhole coversand wherever water collects, but the city does not go onto privateproperty. Here, Case said, is where citizens can help.

“The chemicals do a good job, but a lot of it has to do withhome owners,” he said. “Residents need to keep containers turnedover and empty of water. If you ever went out there and looked at abucket sitting out, it’s full of larvae. Seven days after theyhatch, they mature, and there can be millions of mosquitoes flyingaround the house.”

Case pointed out that mosquito dunks can be purchased at feedmill stores for around $6 per pack. The dunks will last about amonth, he said, and even longer if the water evaporates.

“If you have a hole in your yard that holds water and it driesup, the dunk will just stay there,” he said. “Once the hole fillsup again, the dunk will start releasing the chemical again.”

Case said old tires – a prime mosquito breeding ground – can betaken to the county barn of District Two Supervisor Bobby J. Watts,where they will be recycled to a shredding company in Jackson. Thecounty provides the service, which is funded through a grant, freeof charge.

While the threat of contracting West Nile virus from a mosquitobite is a frightening one – Mississippi’s first case was reportedin Lincoln County more than one month ago – Case said there was nocause for alarm. Those working outside need only to be smart abouttheir business outside.

“The more sun you get in, the better off you are,” Case said.”In the summer, mosquitoes are looking for a cool, damp place to bein – but not a cold place. They can’t stand the heat and they can’tstand the cold.”

The Mississippi Department of Health states the chances ofbecoming infected with West Nile are actually low, but peopleshould still be guard.

“All in all, you still have a great chance as far as a group ofgetting malaria than West Nile,” Case said. “There’s no guaranteethat they all carry West Nile, but they’re a nuisance. Just keepall your containers turned over, put on your bug spray and use alittle common sense.”