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Mosquitoes ... they are a-comin'

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May 10, 2007

By JOHN FLOWERS

BRIDPORT — Receding flood waters and cold nights have helped keep biting bugs at bay thus far this spring, but officials in the county’s two mosquito-control districts know that warming temperatures will soon lead to a sizable hatch of insects.

Last week saw representatives of the Brandon-Leicester-Salisbury-Goshen (BLSG) and Lemon Fair Insect Control Districts (LFICD) get their equipment and larvicide stocks ready for what has become an annual battle against swarms of bloodthirsty insects.

“We are surveying every day and keeping a close watch on things,” said BLSG district Coordinator Kim Schroeder. “It has been a wet spring, and we’re hoping things dry up a bit more before it warms up.”

That’s because mosquitoes thrive in warm, wet conditions. The insects lay their eggs in swamps and pools of standing water. With help from the sun, those eggs mature into larvae, then full-fledged mosquitoes.

The last three years have been particularly buggy, prompting Cornwall and Bridport to kick off the LFICD during the spring of 2006. Weybridge residence initially rejected an offer to join the LFICD, but then created their own mosquito district later in 2006. Other towns — such as Shoreham, Whiting, Addison and Proctor — have been considering mosquito-control services, according to Tom Vanacore, coordinator of the LFICD.

Though only in its first full year of existence, the LFICD has become a regional powerhouse in the war against mosquitoes. The district bought its own larvicide-spreading airplane, currently housed at the Middlebury State Airport. Certified aviator Ed Peet of Cornwall has done a lot of larvicide drops from the plane, which is now being commissioned by Weybridge and the BLSG — which became the state’s first mosquito-control district more than two decades ago.

During the spring and summer last year, the LFICD conducted 10 larvicide drops on 6,490 acres within its territory. The district treated an additional 3,720 acres in the BLSG.

Vanacore is pleased to see the BLSG and LFICD collaborate in the battle with the insects.

“A mosquito doesn’t know any (district) boundaries,” Vanacore said.

The LFICD, however, is recognizing boundaries — especially those that delineate properties within the district(s) on which organic crops are grown.

Vanacore noted the district recently retrofitted its plane with equipment that will allow it to spray organic larvicide over the estimated 1,000 acres of certified organic cropland/landscape within the LFICD. The remainder of the district receives drops of larvicide that is affixed to corn granules that are not certified organic, Vanacore explained.

STATE AID

The technology and larvicide costs money, and area mosquito-control districts may soon get access to more resources than they have in the past.

As the Addison Independent went to press, the Vermont Legislature had budgeted roughly $200,000 for mosquito control during fiscal year 2008, which runs from July 1, 2007, to June 30, 2008. Until now, districts have had to be content with a percentage of motorboat registration fees collected by the state, an amount that has generated far less than $200,000.

“There’s an increase in funding, because there is an increase in need,” Vanacore said.

Schroeder noted, however, that mosquito-control districts will probably need to lobby the Legislature for more money for fiscal year 2009, because mosquito funds are still not a line item in the state’s general fund budget.

“Nothing is definite after this year,” Schroeder said. “We’ll have to go back again next year.”

Still, it’s clear that state officials are getting more serious about cracking down on mosquitoes, which can harbor such diseases as equine encephalitis and West Nile virus. Both the Vermont House and Senate have discussed bills this year that would create a statewide insect-control program. Bill S.37, recently passed by the Senate, would allow the Vermont Secretary of Agriculture, Food and Markets to award districts up to 75 percent of the costs of larvicide. The districts would be able to cover their 25-percent match through in-kind services, including adulticide application or the purchase of equipment used for mosquito-control purposes.

While the Legislature does its work, volunteers in Weybridge, the BLSG and LFICD will continue to scan wet areas for mosquito larvae in an attempt to minimize the impact of the first big hatch.

People in Weybridge and the LFICD are being asked to call their respective town clerks if they notice a surge in mosquitoes. Residents of the BLSG should call Schroeder at 247-6779.

Though there’s been little buzz about mosquitoes thus far, LFICD officials have already received a smattering of calls.

“People are calling us, asking what’s happening and what we can do to get rid of (the mosquitoes),” said Elizabeth Karnes-Keefe, a Cornwall representative on the LFICD board of supervisors.

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