Recently I was reading a FB group posting that criticized a Chicago area community for its lack of mosquito spraying (adulticiding). I could not resist. I bit.
After managing a community mosquito abatement program for more than 30 years I felt a need to inject some facts and information into the discussion. I explained that many Chicago area communities have moved away from abatement programs that emphasize chemical truck spraying to ones that attack the threat at the larvae stage – called larviciding. There are several important elements to this which are beyond the discussion of this post.
There are a couple of primary reasons that truck spraying is no longer emphasized. First, spraying chemicals into the atmosphere is not environmentally friendly. Many folks my age recount running behind the spray trucks, as kids, playing in the chemical mist… Was this healthy? According to World Health Organization study titled “Pesticides and Their Application” Sixth Edition 2006 (page 11)” all pesticides are toxic to some degree to humans. However, at the dosage levels used for mosquito control, the risk of ill effects is not great. But like many environmental factors some people are more apt to different levels of chemical sensitivity than others. Second adulticide chemicals are only airborne for a short time and therefore lose effectiveness rather quickly. Spray will kill mosquitoes that it comes in contact with but does not “hang” long enough in the air for continual protection.
If you live in a rural area where your community does not abut jurisdictions that also have well thought out and effectively designed abatement programs the nuisance problem is more likely. There is also the greater potential of mosquito transmitted diseases health risk, Ironically the “floodwater” mosquito is the one that is most noticed by the public as it is a frequent and aggressive bitter. The vector mosquito is the type that is more dangerous as it tends to carry diseases like West Nile Virus or Encephalitis.
The vector mosquitoes usually appear in the latter part of the summer when is hot and dry- August and September in the Midwest – but can be found earlier too. The best protection against mosquitoes is insect repellent applied as personal protection. The Illinois Department Public Health recommends insect repellent with between 10 to 25 percent DEET. DEET was developed in 1946 by the US Army to protect personnel in insect infested areas.
So the the question that one must ask is not: Should we spray or not spray? The question one should ask is “spray” what?
The answer is clearly “spray” – insect repellent with DEET as “personal protection”. It is your best line of defense against nuisance and disease vectors!