Pittsfield's mosquito season not expected to bite


PITTSFIELD — Mosquito control teams, which have been active in the field since late last year, are not anticipating a severe infestation in Pittsfield during the 2016 season.

Christopher Horton, superintendent of the Berkshire County Mosquito Control Project, expressed that sentiment recently in providing his annual report to the Board of Health. The board unanimously accepted a report on the 2015 season and approved Horton's plan for 2016, which represented only minor changes from last year.

Crews have treated with larvicide standing water in snowmelt pools and other problem areas that have been identified by the project, Horton said, and are checking those spots again over the next couple of weeks because of recent rains.

Overall, he said, the city's traditional mosquito breeding grounds did not experience flooding this spring and were more easily treated than in some years. As with 2015, the first goal, he said, is to treat standing water and city catch basins to kill the mosquito larvae before they emerge as adults and to reduce wet areas by facilitating drainage.

"I think we are in pretty good shape on that," he said.

The same strategy last season, coupled with a lack of heavy flooding in the spring, allowed the project to avoid spraying insecticides for adult mosquitos until around July 4. Horton said the use of a 90-day, timed-release larvicide treatment this season could extend the date infestations requiring spraying develop in Pittsfield until even later in the summer.

The active ingredient in the larvicide is the same as that used in 2015, he said, but it deteriorates more slowly in standing water, over 90 days. The insecticide used in spraying will be the same product as used last season.

In addition to the treatment of standing water, Horton said 9,400 feet of drainage ditches or natural runoff routes were cleared of debris over the fall and winter or opened up to allow complete drainage. And approximately 3,800 city catch basins with standing water also will be treated with larvicide.

Board of Health members asked few questions before approving the program for this year. One resident lauded the effectiveness of the program in 2015 around her home, while another expressed a similar sentiment in a letter to the Health Department.

Horton said another effective change implemented last year, which will be used again, is to respond to resident complaints of an adult mosquito infestation with spraying at night with a truck-mounted sprayer. The goal is to cover just one or a few properties, rather than an entire neighborhood — as had been the practice in the past.

The new approach, which replaces a response to individual properties with hand-spraying equipment or waiting until an infestation spreads, was quicker and more effective at keeping a small infestation area from expanding.

He added that an infestation is determined by measuring the rate mosquitos land on a person and other observations.

Horton said 2015 compared well with recent years, including 2012 through 2014, during which adult mosquitos were prevalent, or flooding, especially along the Housatonic River, exacerbated the problems.

The mosquito control project also traps adult mosquitos in a number of locations and sends them to state Department of Public Health laboratories for testing for West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis or other diseases. None of the trapped mosquitos in county communities were found to be carrying EEE in 2015, but there were several positive hits for West Nile Virus.

Those sites typically receive a treatment with insecticide spraying.

The mosquito control project now employes a comprehensive mapping system, which lists 460 breeding locations in the eight communities in the county that hire the agency to monitor and/or control mosquitos. Other members include Clarksburg, Hinsdale, Otis, Richmond, Sheffield, Stockbridge and Tyringham, according to a state website.

Statewide, there are 11 regional mosquito control project offices, working with 196 communities.

The project also offers a public education program with information on reducing breeding areas or avoiding adult mosquitos and related advice.

Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.


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