By JOHN FLOWERS
ADDISON COUNTY — Mosquito control officials in the state’s three insect control districts — all located in Addison County and Brandon — are getting ready to close the books on what they say was one of the buggiest summers in recent history.
Seemingly incessant rainfall throughout July and early August caused frequent flooding of area wetlands, as well as spillovers of the Otter Creek and its tributaries. The resulting water pooling created ideal conditions for mosquitoes to spawn, hatch and wreak havoc throughout the county.
“Statewide, we’ve been getting a lot of reports and calls of elevated levels of mosquitoes in areas that have never called before,” state Entomologist Jon Turmel said on Thursday. “It’s been because of the amount of rain we’ve had.
“The rain hasn’t been absorbed (into the ground) and there are all these puddles. We just can’t find them all.”
It hasn’t been for a lack of trying.
The Lemon Fair Insect Control District’s airplane conducted more than 40 larvicide dropping sorties throughout the three insect control districts, encompassing Bridport, Cornwall, Weybridge, Brandon, Leicester, Goshen and Salisbury. In all, the plane dumped larvicide — which kills mosquito larvae in their early stages of growth — on a whopping 7,288 acres this summer. By contrast, the Lemon Fair district’s plane dropped larvicide on only 608 acres last year during what was a comparatively dry summer. All of the larvicide drops last year were confined to the Brandon, Leicester, Salisbury, Goshen (BLSG) Mosquito Control District.
“We handle an area that is very large, and it got even larger,” Lemon Fair district Manager Tom Baskett said of the impact of the rainy conditions. “It shifted from day to day.”
The state reimburses larvicide expenses through a fund containing, in part, revenues from motorboat registration fees. The Lemon Fair district (Cornwall and Bridport) billed the state this year at a rate of $9.50 per acre, for a total of around $68,000.
Last year, the district took in roughly $5,400 in income, which reflected the fewer larvicide drops needed during a dry season.
Fortunately, the state’s larvicide fund was flush with money this year due in part to a nice fund balance from last year, according to Turmel. The fund, at the beginning of this year, contained just over $300,000, Turmel said.
“We should be OK for next spring,” Turmel said. “After that, I’m not sure.”
Baskett said he is pleased with how volunteers and paid staff in the mosquito districts pitched in to battle insects during a particularly tough year. While it may be of little consolation to people who had to swat a lot of bugs this summer, it could have been a lot of worse.
District traps that had been catching around 35,000 mosquitoes during a typical night in problem areas before the larvicide drops were later capturing around 500 of the insects during a typical night after the drops, according to Turmel.
“If these mosquito districts weren’t in existence, it would be totally miserable,” Turmel said.
While the larvicide drops ended late last month, the BLSG district continues to spray adulticide, as needed, in some areas — particularly in the vicinity of Lake Dunmore. The BLSG district is the only one of the three districts that sprays to knock down already-hatched mosquitoes. District-member towns foot the bill for that spraying.
“We will continue with adulticide spraying until the first frost, or until the nights get down into the 40s,” BLSG district Manager Paul Doty said of temperatures that usually seal the insects’ fate for the year.
“This warm stretch has really prolonged the season,” he said. “We are just getting our summer now, some people are saying.”
Doty was pleased to report that BLSG residents have bravely weathered what has been a stormy year for insects.
“I think the public has been very understanding, as far as what our limitations were,” Doty said.