Mosquito spraying effort may be increased as West Nile virus threat looms
By JEAN L. KAESS
With the threat of an increased mosquito population in the wake of Hurricane Isaac — and a banner year for the spread of West Nile virus in Louisiana — some St. Mary Parish communities are considering plans to increase mosquito spraying.
This is in addition to a request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency through the state Department of Health and Hospitals to conduct aerial spraying of coastal parishes affected by the storm, according to Glenn Stokes of Mosquito Control Contractors Inc. in New Iberia.
The request was made Friday and mosquito numbers must be justified in order for the request to be granted, he said, adding that the decision should be handed down any day. The last time such a decision was made was after Hurricane Gustav in 2008.
St. Mary Parish would be included in that spraying if it is conducted.
It takes seven to 10 days for mosquitoes to hatch, fly, bite and take their first blood meal, Stokes said.
The area should begin seeing the first increased hatch from Hurricane Isaac flood waters toward the end of the week.
Cajun Mosquito Control owner Jessie Boudreaux predicted the mosquitoes from “Bayou Vista east should be a little more aggressive,” due to the increased tidal action and rain fall. In the Houma area, where rainfall was significantly higher, landing rates already are increased to the tune of 50 mosquitoes per minute. The normal rate for this time of year is 5 to 10 per minute,” Boudreaux said.
The city of Morgan City, whose mosquito contracting is handled by Cajun Mosquito Control in Houma, decided Tuesday to pursue aerial spraying of the city to stay on top of the mosquito population, according to Lorrie Braus, chief administrative officer.
The city receives weekly surveillance reports from Boudreaux and is the only area he serves that has not had a positive report for West Nile virus, Boudreaux said.
Cajun Mosquito Control also serves Patterson, Franklin, Cypremort Point, Lower and Upper St. Martin Parish and Terrebonne Parish.
Berwick is monitored by MCCI but conducts its own spraying program at the instruction of the company. MCCI sprays and monitors the unincorporated areas of the parish.
These areas have not increased spraying in response to Isaac but already are on an accelerated spraying track because of the West Nile reports.
Berwick sprays five nights a week, while the unincorporated areas are sprayed seven nights a week in areas with the most need. Not every area will see a truck spraying every night.
“West Nile activity is so remarkable this year,” Boudreaux said.
At least 145 cases and nine deaths have been reported in Louisiana from the West Nile virus. No human or horse cases have been reported in St. Mary Parish.
“Everyone needs to be mindful that we are all still at risk of contracting West Nile virus,” said state Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein. “This has been the most active West Nile virus season Louisiana has experienced since 2006, so it’s critical that everyone takes the necessary precautions, particularly as residents return to their homes and begin clean-up efforts.”
More than 60 species of mosquitos inhabit the state, and water helps them reproduce, according to LSU AgCenter entomologist Dennis Ring.
“During drought conditions, mosquitoes are known to lay their eggs in places that will eventually hold water,” Ring said. “Once the water comes, they then have the condition needed for the eggs to hatch and the larvae to grow.”
Ring said if there are containers around that will hold water for more than a week, that’s long enough for the eggs to hatch.
Things that can be done around the home to reduce the mosquito population include:
—Remove containers that hold standing water, such as old tires and other debris.
—Empty flower pots and other yard and patio containers.
—Drain fountains, ornamental ponds and swimming pools no longer being properly maintained or treat them with Bt discs (a bacterial pathogen of mosquito larvae).
—Fill low-lying areas to avoid standing water.
—Provide drainage ditches to promote rapid runoff of rainwater.