City Taking Scientific Approach toward Mosquito Control

Apr 10, 2017

From The Decatur Daily
by Bayne Hughes

Decatur this summer will take a scientific approach toward its mosquito control program, which will save the city almost $30,000.

Street Department Manager Wayne Wascavage said his crews will no longer just drive the sprayer truck around the city in the hope of killing the pesky bloodsuckers.

“Our research found that this simply wasn’t the right way to do it,” Wascavage said.

Department Administrator Julia Chenault said the city spent $47,000 in fiscal 2007 on mosquito control, while $15,000 is budgeted for the effort in 2017.

Starting in late May, the two employees assigned to mosquito control will spray when they attract five mosquitoes in a minute in an area. They will spray certain areas prior to special events, including 3rd Friday, Spirit of America and soccer tournaments at Jack Allen Recreation Complex.

Chenault said the crew will respond to complaints and spray if the count passes the required amount. The crew cannot spray on private property.

Rickey Terry, director of Street and Environmental Services, said the problem with the traditional fogging method is it’s ineffective, expensive and puts too many chemicals in the air.

“There is such a thing as over-spraying, and that’s what we were doing,” Terry said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Alabama Department of Environmental Management now put limits on the amount of chemicals the city can use, Terry said.

Mosquitoes are most active at dusk and early in the morning, so the crews will start their shift at 4 a.m. This works better with their schedule because it allows them to do other Street Department duties, Wascavage said.

Terry said this also is a good time to spay because most people are still in bed.

The crew will start by trying to eliminate the mosquitoes at the larval stage. They will start by measuring larva in places where standing water often sits, like ponds, ditches, tires, weeds and playground equipment.

If they find multiple mosquito larvae in a test dip, they will treat that water with a larvacide tablet that includes environmentally friendly chemicals and bacteria that eat larvae.

“It’s very safe for the fish and other water life,” Wascavage said.

A third part of the mosquito control effort is educating the public on how it can help reduce the population, Terry said.

“People have too many breeding grounds, like trash in the alley, tires, paint cans, bird baths and dog bowls,” Terry said.

Wascavage said recent tests showed only three to 10 larvae in a city ditch, while four tires at the Leon Sheffield Elementary School had 20 to 30 larvae.

“People must get rid of the standing water that mosquitoes prefer,” Wascavage said. “They don’t lay eggs in running water or deep water.”

The EPA requires the city to submit an annual report on its mosquito control efforts and the amount of chemicals and larvacide used.