When targeting mosquitos, use ground spray
It is with concern that I express views about mosquitos and pesticide methods used to control them. Due to a mild winter the mosquito population is expected to be a major concern, as people look for ways to prevent incidents of West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).
The Mass Audubon states that both WNV and EEE are serious human diseases in Massachusetts that can be transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. Although Department of Public Health does monitor mosquitos, animals, and humans for WNV and EEE it is very important to educate families and community members about the increased risk to young children, the elderly, and those with depressed immune systems.
Many communities have control practices that they implement if a concern of WNV or EEE is found, but are these practices safe? Communities such as Andover should use fogging as a last resort and educate about the need to remove stagnant water, stay inside at and after dusk (which is the time that most mosquitos feed), use screens on windows, avoid marshy areas, and wear long sleeve shirts and pants.
The use of fogging or spraying pesticides should only be used in targeted areas which are highly susceptible to disease spreading mosquitos based on DPH surveillance monitoring and risk thresholds. Also ground spraying is shown to be a better target than aerial spraying and has shown to have a smaller effect on the environment. Mass Audubon found in 1990, when an aerial application of malathion was used to manage Eastern Equine Encephalitis, 800,000 acres in southeastern Massachusetts were sprayed and massive fish kills occurred. Enormous numbers of nontarget species, including harmless insects and mosquito predators like dragonflies were killed. Aerial spraying has also had little effect on mosquito breeds which carry WNV since these particular breeds larvae mature in small isolated stagnant water areas such as water buckets and or catch basins.
In my opinion, as someone pursuing a career in the healthcare field, a mother, and a community member the risk versus benefit of mosquito-borne disease should be balanced against the risks of human health and environmental effects of pesticides.
Heather C. Lacharite
University of Mass. Lowell nursing student