County waging annual battle against mosquitoes

So far so good. That’s the word on the start of the spring mosquito season, according to Thomas M. Candeletti, superintendent of the Ocean County Mosquito Extermination Commission.

With a variety of factors including the weather to standing water all playing a part in the breeding of mosquitoes, Candeletti said the commission has been larvaciding at the known breeding sites throughout Ocean County and working to keep down this year’s mosquito population.

"This year has not been as wet as last year," Candeletti said in a report to the Ocean County Board of Freeholders. "That has been a help so far."

Candeletti said the commission began its larvacide program on April 1 and has already made two complete sweeps of the mosquito breeding areas in the county.

In addition, the commission has been using its two helicopters since mid-April to spray larvacide on the salt marshes in the county.

And, in the next two weeks, the commission workers will begin monitoring for West Nile virus.

"The Ocean County Mosquito Extermination Commission works tirelessly every year to make certain our mosquito population is under control," said Freeholder John P. Kelly, who serves as liaison to the commission. "Last year was an extremely difficult mosquito season because of the wet weather.

"As a result of rains and winds throughout last summer, larvaciding had not been as effective a treatment as it has been in the past, resulting in the increase in the mosquito population," Kelly said. "However, they continue to work hard at curtailing the mosquito population."

This year, the freeholders appropriated $400,000 in the county’s capital budget for the purchase of an amphibious hydraulic rotary excavator which will assist in the commission’s water management projects, which help stops mosquito breeding. The water management projects include the creation of ponds and ditches to help prevent mosquito breeding in particular in the salt marshes.

The commission currently has three water management projects under way – in Dover Township, Stafford Township and Eagleswood Township.

Candeletti said the commission expects to get the custom built machine by the end of the summer.

"This will go a long way in helping us," Candeletti said.

The Ocean County Mosquito Extermination Commission sprays lar­vacide by truck and helicopter and on the ground until at least mid-October.

"Most of our residents do not realize just how extensive our mosquito extermi­nation program is," said Kelly. "We take this threat very seriously and work to make certain our residents and visitors are safe from mosquitoes and the threat of West Nile virus."

The commission takes steps year-round to curtail the mosquito population in the county, Candeletti said.

In addition to monitoring and lar­vaciding, several tens of thousands of fish, the size of guppies, are deposited in storm water control basins, many of which are potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes, throughout the county. This part of the program is run in cooperation with the state mosquito commission.

Ocean County also participated in a scrap tire collection program, funded in part by the state.

"We collected hundreds of thousands of tires during that program," Kelly said. "Each one represented a potential breed­ing ground for mosquitoes."

Throughout the summer season, the commission’s inspection and larvaciding units travel throughout the county every week to 10 days to check for mosquitoes and mosquito larva. Where problems are found, the commission sprays with BTI, a bacterial larvacide that attacks the mosquito larva. If an area is too large or unreachable by truck, the commission considers using helicopters to spray an area, according to a press release.

The salt marsh mosquito usually be­gins to spring up around late March, early April, while the culex mosquito, a known carrier of the West Nile virus, is usually not seen until around June.

Last year, of the 374 mosquito sam­ples tested in the county by commission workers, three tested positive for the presence of the virus.

"It’s important we all do our part in the battle we wage annually against mosquitoes," said Freeholder Director James F. Lacey. "Residents need to take the proper precautions just as we do at the county level. No program is foolproof. That is why we need to work together."

The county recommends residents take the following precautions:

• If outdoors, use an insect repellent containing DEET on skin or clothing, or a repellent containing permethrin on cloth­ing. Do not use repellents on children younger than 3. Always follow container directions.

• Remove standing water from prop­erty.

• Limit outdoor activities at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are more active.