Will Metro "Go Green" With Mosquitos?
WILL METRO ‘GO GREEN’ WITH MOSQUITO CONTROL IN 2009?
Nashville, TN – Long before “going green” was fashionable, environmental groups and concerned citizens asked the Metro Public Health Department to place more emphasis on less toxic approaches to mosquito control. Successful models and strategies from Health Departments in other cities, like Charlotte, NC and Washington, DC, were cited to encourage the department to go in this direction. These cities choose to place a strong emphasis on reducing standing water and larvicide since the Center for Disease Control claims that reducing standing water remains the most effective and economical method of providing long-term mosquito control. They say larvicide is the second most effective way. (CDC West Nile virus Guidelines, August 2003)
“The Metro Public Health department has made a few improvements over the years but they still have a ways to go before their program could be considered truly proactive or green,” says Rachel Sumner, a citizen volunteer with the No Spray Coalition. “When the department finds that a neighborhood has mosquito problems, they should be using the most effective controls first. The department claims they are doing this, however, inspection of their records shows something quite different,” states Sumner.
Sumner examined the Health Department’s 2008 standing water inspection records to find out what they did to help manage mosquitoes before they began spraying last summer in Antioch. At the time, the department had three batches of mosquitoes with positive tests for West Nile virus in the neighborhood’s traps. The department’s records revealed that no standing water inspections were done in the neighborhood where the diseased mosquitoes were found during the three-week period before the department sprayed.
“With just one blood meal, a female mosquito can lay several hundred eggs. To effectively and economically manage mosquito problems, you must take the time to find and reduce or treat standing water where females lay their eggs. If you do not do this, you are fighting a losing battle and wasting precious tax dollars,” states Sumner. She added, “It is common sense to kill mosquitoes is when they are contained in water so you can prevent thousands of mosquitoes from becoming adults. It is much more difficult to kill them once they are in the air.”
Sumner shared the results of her research with District 29’s Councilwoman, Vivian Wilhoite, who represents the Antioch neighborhood that was sprayed five times last summer. Wilhoite volunteered to meet with the Director of the Health Department, Dr. William Paul, to request that the department enhance their program and be more proactive. During the meetings, Paul acknowledged some of the weaknesses in the program and promised that improvements would be made or considered. A few weeks after the meetings, he announced that the Health Department would hold its annual Backyard Inspection Day in Antioch where spraying took place last year.
Health Department staff and community volunteers, including Wilhoite and Sumner, will meet at Lakeview Elementary at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, April 25th. They will go door-to-door from 9 a.m. until noon offering approximately 200 homeowners backyard inspections to identify mosquito breeding grounds. In addition to the inspections, homeowners will learn how to reduce mosquito breeding grounds and how to protect themselves from biting mosquitoes.
Sumner brought the idea of Backyard Inspection Days to the Health Department in 2004. The department has used a Backyard Inspection Day to kick off the mosquito season each year since. Sumner commented, “The original idea was to hold periodic inspection days throughout the summer to help neighborhoods with mosquito problems. I’d like to see this happen this summer. The Backyard Inspection Day has been helpful to the one neighborhood they select each year and it is good publicity for the department. I look forward to seeing Dr. Paul’s new plan. I hope it is strategic and takes full advantage of more effective and greener approaches.”