Flooding sets stage for mosquitoes

ADDISON COUNTY AND BRANDON — Usually, more water means more mosquitoes. But this record-breaking spring of rainfall has created so much water — particularly of the moving variety — that floodplain-borne mosquitoes have had a tough time multiplying, according to state and local insect-control officials.
But county residents should still keep their mosquito repellant handy, as officials predict that as the flood waters recede, mosquitoes will find a new abundance of standing pools likely to harbor big swarms of bugs.
As the Addison Independent went to press on Wednesday, the Lemon Fair Insect Control District’s airplane had made only one sortie this season, to drop larvicide on around 1,500 acres in the Weybridge area back on May 20.
Addison County and Brandon are home to all three of the state’s insect control districts. The Lemon Fair district includes the towns of Bridport and Cornwall. Weybridge is its own district. And the Brandon-Leicester-Salisbury-Goshen Insect Control District was the first established in Vermont.
The Lemon Fair district has its own airplane for larvicide drops, a service it also extends to the other two districts.
So far, the airplane hasn’t seen a lot of action.
“So far, we haven’t have an outbreak of uncontrolled mosquito population,” said Lemon Fair district coordinator Tom Vanacore. “But it takes vigilance.”
There are times when it takes only one substantial storm to open the floodgates to mosquitoes and major headaches for the three districts. But in this unusual spring, officials are on guard for storm-free periods.
“What I worry about is when the lake (Champlain) goes down,” said state Entomologist Jon Turmel. The lake — which feeds local rivers, streams and floodplains — has consistently been above flood stage this spring.
“When it goes down, it will leave a lot of standing water,” Turmel said.
Hot, sunny conditions could help dry out that standing water quickly, Turmel noted. But then again, the water could hang around for a while and provide prime spawning territory for mosquitoes.
“We have seen the lake flood before, but not this late and this high,” Turmel said. “This is a new chapter in the (insect control) book, as far as I’m concerned.”
Mort Pierpont, coordinator of the BLSG district, has enjoyed a pretty quiet spring thus far.
“We have had an extensive amount of water,” he said. “The benefit is that the water has been so high and saturated, we have not seen any treatable areas.”
That said, conditions have been ripe for woodland mosquitoes that have emerged from damp, forested areas, Pierpont noted. The BLSC trucks have for the past couple of weeks been out spraying adulticide to knock down pockets of the mature mosquitoes that have been harassing residents in the four towns.
The BLSC is the only insect-control district that deploys adulticide. Most of the complaints have come from around Lake Dunmore and Middle Road neighborhood of Salisbury, according to Pierpont.
“It’s only a matter of time before we get more calls,” Pierpont said.
The BLSG has its own Web site at http://blsgmosquito.wordpress.com.
Officials said there appears to be enough state funding to pay for this season’s drops of larvicide, which attacks the pre-hatch mosquito larvae. That program is funded through motorboat registration revenues and occasional appropriations by the Legislature.
The three districts rely on a lot of volunteer labor to “dip” samples from mosquito habitats to determine when areas are ready for larvicide drops.
Vanacore believes this could be a year when other regions of the state decide to organize their own districts.
“I expect there will be a lot of mosquito headaches in areas that are not set up with mosquito control,” Vanacore said. “I think it is going to be a bad year.”
Reporter John  Flowers is at [email protected].

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