Fog of War

Published 6:44 pm Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The dog days of summer are definitely in full swing, and thatmeans the bugs are biting.

But Brookhaven residents do have some backup when it comes tothe fight against the bite. Four days a week, the mosquito trucksmake their way through the neighborhoods, battling the bugpopulation.

“You’ve got two trucks, and they go to a different area each dayto cover as much as they can,” said Street DepartmentSuperintendent Wilmer Butler. “They each have a route just like agarbage truck.”

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The trucks make their way up and down the streets blowing a fogthat kills the insects. And while the amount of fog can bedeceiving, it’s doing its job, said mosquito truck driver BillyCase.

“Used to be you couldn’t see the road in front of you when themosquito truck came through,” he said. “It’s not as loud or asfoggy as they used to be, but it’s the same amount ofchemical.”

But it still reaches all throughout the neighborhood, hesaid.

“The drift adds 300-500 feet, depending on the wind and whichway it’s blowing,” he said. “If it’s over five miles an hour, we’renot supposed to run.”

In addition to the fog, Butler said, the truck drivers alsowatch for places where mosquitoes could be breeding.

“If you have water sitting, they’ll put water pellets in thereuntil it drains,” he said. “It’s got the same thing in it as thespray.”

But legally the city doesn’t own any ditches, so that’s justsomething nice that gets done to help city residents. Officialspointed out that homeowners can also buy the pellets and put itthem in their own water.

Meanwhile, in answer to questions about what’s in the mix,officials said it’s not harmful to people unless people are doingsomething dumb, like purposely trying to inhale the fumes, orriding bicycles behind the truck.

“It’s a pyrethrum base, which is basically made of crusheddaises,” said Case. “You shouldn’t be just inhaling it, but itisn’t going to knock you out and kill you.”

Case said people should be aware that mosquitoes hang out whereit’s cool and damp, so there really isn’t a large risk of biteswhen the sun is shining.

“The one that’s going to bite you in a light shaded area, it’sstill bad to get bit, but they’re not the ones that carry the WestNile,” he said. “They adapt to everything, cold or heat, but you’renot as apt to get bit in the sun as you would sitting under a shadetree drinking a glass of iced tea.”

Butler said overall, the public response to the mosquito truckis positive.

“They’re happy to see it coming and they want more,” hesaid.