Daily News Archive

Mosquito Season and Mosquito Spraying, Still Not Over For Some
(Beyond Pesticides, November 28, 2003) For most states, frostier nights has brought an end to the mosquito season and great sighs of relief in communities across the country as the wholesale spraying of pesticides finally relents. But for some in places like Palm Beach county, Florida spraying is being stepped up with renewed vigor.

Palm Beach county in Florida has been placed under a medical alert for mosquito-borne diseases and has announced that spraying will be kicked into high gear "pretty much from border to border" in the coastal county, says Gary Goode, an analyst with the county's Division of Mosquito Control. The county is home is close to 1.2 million people with roughly 23% being over the age of 65, the age group most vulnerable to severe illness from West Nile virus (WNv), but also vulnerable to pesticide exposure.

"'We're trying to get the airplane up,'" says Goode. "'We have something scheduled, but if they aren't able to pull it off because of the wind, then they'll try it again the next night and the next night until [conditions are right],'" says Goode according to The Sun-Sentinel.

Florida's WNv Response Plan is one of the least conservative state plans in regards to widescale spraying of pesticides. While a level 2 response (out of 4 levels) does not rule out aerial adulticiding in extreme cases, it generally calls for aerial adulticiding only after a human WNv case has been detected, which in Palm Beach is not the case.

The additional four sentinel chickens that tested positive and set off the medical alert were found in two out of seven or more cities in the county, "'but,'" Goode told The Sun reporter, WNv-positive chickens "'have been popping up all over the county.'" Since the beginning of the year Florida's statistics show somewhere between 24-50 WNv-positive sentinel chickens dispersed relatively equally throughout the entire state - a low number in comparison to most states. Palm Beach had 8 positively tested chickens as of November 5, until the additional four this week (bringing the total to 13). Although these numbers are generally considered very low for such a heightened level response, eight malaria patients were reported from the county last month. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), six deaths due to the virus have been recorded in the entire state of Florida - all since November 19.

Although the intention of spraying may be to protect the public, the county may be doing more harm than good. Studies have shown that aerial spraying for adult mosquitoes is greatly ineffective (as little as 1% of mosquitoes will be hit, according to Cornell University entomologist David Pimentel). Further, pesticides that kill mosquitoes also kill their predators leading to less biological check on the mosquito population than without spraying. The CDC reports that less than one percent of those infected with WNv will develop severe illness. And while the potential risks of pesticidal exposure from spraying continue to be scientifically uncertain, evidence linking pesticide exposure to health and environmental problems continues to pour in - particularly including the highly toxic pesticides used to combat mosquitoes.