Communities continue mosquito war

Published 5:00 am Thursday, June 11, 2009

Area mayors say they are taking the battle to the buzzingbloodsuckers that target people each spring.

Brookhaven Mayor Bob Massengill said the city began spraying formosquitoes as early as mid-April to keep their numbers down.

In Monticello, Mayor Dave Nichols said they began a few weekslater in early May.

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Wesson began spraying last week, said Mayor Alton Shaw.

The early preventive measures seem to be working, they said.

“I noticed that we started mosquitoes earlier than normal, butsince we started spraying I don’t see it as a problem,” Nicholssaid. “You can never totally get rid of them, but we have easedit.”

The cost of the war is high, mayors said, but it’s worth theprice to keep potentially fatal mosquito-borne viruses such as WestNile, St. Louis Encephalitis and Eastern Equine Encephalitis atbay.

Massengill said the city sprays every weekday that is notdisrupted by rain or winds, which would negate the effects of thechemicals.

Brookhaven has budgeted more than $42,000 this year to purchasespray and other chemicals to combat mosquitoes. That cost does notinclude the labor, gas or other expenses, but those costs areoffset by city employees doing the work during their regularworking hours.

The city will continue to spray until at least early October,Massengill said.

“The city board is committed to funding whatever it takes tospray for mosquitoes,” he said.

The board affirmed its commitment last week when it transferred$26,400 to purchase more chemicals. The transfer was made to coverthe loss of a grant issued in 2007 and 2008 to combat mosquitoes asa response to the rise of West Nile, a mosquito-borne virus thatswept across the nation and sickened thousands.

The cost in Monticello is much lower because there is lessground to cover, Nichols said.

Nichols said the town has appropriated $2,500 in chemicals tokill adult mosquitoes and larvae. Town employees spray the townonce or twice each week, use backpack sprayers to reach interiorareas, and drop chemicals in standing water at Cooper’s Ferry Parkand some drainage ditches not owned by the city with a history ofstanding water.

“It’s something we take very seriously and it has been increasedduring my administration,” Nichols said.

Shaw said Wesson budgeted $1,500 to $2,000 in chemicals and willspray once a week.

“It takes about six hours for us to spray the whole route,” hesaid. “Something that’s not as noticeable to the public is that wego around and treat (standing water) before they hatch.”

Fortunately, the mayors said, the 2009 season seems typical andthey have received no warnings from the state Department of Healthabout the possibility of an emergence of any mosquito-borneviruses.

However, Massengill said the public should still do its part inkeeping the numbers down and their property safe.

“There are things each of us in our homes can do,” Massengillsaid. “If we know what to do, we can help prevent mosquitoes. Wewant folks to do all they can, we will also do all we can.”

Massengill suggested several tips provided by the healthdepartment for personal protection and comfort.

“My personal opinion is that mosquito spray certainly helps,” hesaid. “I use it anytime I’m going outdoors. I believe that helpsmore than wearing long sleeve shirts and pants in this hotweather.”

The health department suggests using insect repellent containingDEET as the most effective in warding off bites.

Other suggestions include staying indoors at dawn and dusk, thepeak mosquito periods, and the elimination of standing water, whichcan become mosquito breeding grounds. Water collections of any sizecan breed mosquitoes with the most common breeding grounds beingdiscarded, used tires.