Decatur scores win against mosquitoes

Jun 27, 2017

From The Decatur Daily

It was a familiar sound of the season: trucks in spring and summer roaming city streets with fogger machines fastened to their beds, spraying neighborhoods for mosquitoes.

It’s a sound no longer heard in Decatur now that the city has adopted a new strategy for dealing with nature’s most irritating bloodsuckers. And the city’s new approach so far seems to be a resounding success.

According to Ricky Terry, director of Decatur’s street and environmental services department, complaints about mosquitoes are down 75 percent this year compared to last year.

Instead of having trucks spray the entire city, starting at one end and circling all the way around, much like garbage trucks following their routes, the city now uses traps to identify problem areas. Once identified, those problem areas receive targeted treatment that once was dispersed throughout the city.

In addition, city crews have zeroed in on areas where standing water creates a fertile breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Not only is the new practice better at killing mosquitoes — which is the most important thing — it’s less costly. The city saves money in gas, mileage and insecticide.

It’s also less of a nuisance for anyone outside grilling, swimming or otherwise enjoying the summer sun. The city’s targeted spraying takes place in the early morning, instead of evenings, to further reduce the inconvenience to residents.

Mosquitoes are more than an annoyance. They’re a health hazard. State health officials remain on the lookout for the Zika virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes and can cause serious birth defects should a woman become infected while pregnant.

To date, the only confirmed Zika infections in Alabama have been in people who caught the virus while traveling in Zika-prone areas abroad, such as the Caribbean and Central America.

Unfortunately, mosquitoes aren’t the only insects threatening people’s health. Anyone who spends time in heavily wooded areas has to beware of deer ticks, which can spread Lyme disease.

Scarier still is the Lone Star tick, which sounds like something out of a bad sci-fi movie. It is, surprisingly, quite real, and its bite can cause a rare allergy to meat in some people. That makes it seem more like a genetically engineered monster created by a vegan mad scientist than the naturally evolved menace it is, but nature often works in bizarre ways.

Needless to say, municipal eradication campaigns like the one Decatur has for mosquitoes can’t deal with every threat. It’s still up to individuals to wear clothing that provides protection during long hikes and to use topical insect-repellent when spending long periods outside.

Summer is a time for fun. But it’s also a time for caution outdoors as well.