Council critical of job Mosquito Control is doing

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 30, 2000

ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / September 30, 2000

LAPLACE – The recent invasion of millions of mosquitoes in St. John theBaptist Parish caused a lot of buzzing and angry words at the recent parish council meeting. It also resulted in a long lecture on why the mosquitoes areso plentiful this year.

Wayne Machada, president of Mosquito Control, the company contracted by the parish to control mosquitoes, was questioned and criticized by unhappy council members Tuesday night.

Council Chairperson Melissa Faucheux said she had received complaints that Machada spray trucks were not spraying all the streets.

Faucheux said, “I even had one person video tape one of your trucks not coming down their street.”Faucheux also wanted to know if Mosquito Control could combine aerial and truck spraying in the morning and the evening instead of just the mornings.

Machada told her the effectiveness of aerial spraying in the day or night doesn’t make a difference. Plus, he said trucks do not have to go down everystreet for the pesticide to be effective.

“The spray covers 300 feet from the truck,” Machada told the council. “Evenif the truck doesn’t go down one street, the mist will still cover the area because the pesticide drifts.”Machada said that since the invasion of mosquitoes his crews have been working twice as hard to control the infestation. According to Machada, thedrought is to blame for the large number of the stinging bloodsuckers.

The majority of mosquitoes flying around the parish are salt marsh mosquitoes, and they don’t need water to lay their eggs like other species of mosquitoes.

The salt marsh mosquitoes will lay eggs on the dry ground. At the first rainall the eggs hatch at once, and the larvae all mature at the same time meaning millions and millions of mosquitoes descending on area residents.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” admitted Machada. “My colleagues saythey have never seen anything like this either.”Machada said the problem is not actually killing the insects it is the sheer number of them that makes control so difficult.

“They re-infest an area very quickly after spraying,” said Machada.

But Machada said that his crews are spraying day and night, and each truck is assigned to spray in two zones instead of the usual one.

“In the month of August we sprayed over 26,000 acres,” Machada said. “Inone week of September we sprayed the same amount of land.”Machada admitted that his crews were caught by surprise, but now he with the extra spraying, he feels the problem is manageable.

“I feel comfortable that we are top of this,” said Machada.

He based that optimism on the number of complaints he has been receiving and the number of mosquito eggs found in traps around the parish.

According to Machada, the number of both have steadily decreased meaning that the mosquito population is under control and people aren’t being bitten as much.

But some council members were not happy with that explanation.

Dale Wolfe was very skeptical of Machada’s efforts. “I’m sick and tired oflistening to excuses,” said Wolfe.

Wolfe asked the administration if there is a way to document the progress of Mosquito Control. Parish President Nickie Monica said at the present time,no.

Wolfe said, “There is no way to track this. People are complaining. The spraythey are using is like vitamin spray to the mosquitos.”Mosquito Control uses a product called Biomist, a synthetic pyrethrin, on the ground and another pesticide called Anvil in the aerial spraying. Machada saidthese products are not toxic to humans but do kill mosquitos.

Wolfe said, “I can’t believe we are paying $276,000 a year for mosquito control. I haven’t seen any mosquito control. We are not receiving theservice we paid for.”Wolfe was also critical of the spray trucks. He had complaints fromresidents that the trucks were moving too fast down the streets.

Machada said the speed of the truck doesn’t really matter. The pesticide isadjusted to the speed of the truck.

“Going slow,” Machada said, “means we are not covering a large enough area.”Wolfe would have no part of it.

“Until I have documentation on this, I don’t want to hear it from you,” Wolfe said to Machada. “If we had a drought, we should have had a plan in place todeal with the marshes. I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired over this.”Ranny Wilson asked Machada if the mosquitoes could be eliminated.

Machada said no.

“The mosquito breeds on a geometric progression,” said Machada. “Youcannot eradicate them. We can bring the peak down and reduce the time theyare alive and prevent disease, but you can’t get rid of them.”Machada said the only thing that would kill the mosquitos is the cold of winter.

“This is not a typical situation,” said Machada.

Lester Rainey said he was not happy with the administration’s role in the matter.

“The administration was supposed to have a person in place to check up on mosquito control. We need more than a contract, we need a monitor.”Monica assured the council the administration was doing just that.

“We now have five inspectors,” said Monica, “and they will start on Oct. 2.They will check up on the spraying and send samples to the lab.”Monica said the lab work will cost the parish $400 per sample and the inspectors will get paid for two to three hours of overtime in the evenings.

Rainey said, “We should tackle this problem now before next summer.”Rainey also suggested the schedule of the sprayings be broadcast on Channel 55 so people can check to see if their area is being sprayed.

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