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Pittsfield Board of Health Approves Berkshire County’s Mosquito Control Project

Mosquito
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The Pittsfield Board of Health has approved Berkshire County’s Mosquito Control Project for the summer. It involves a new state process for properties opting out of treatment. 

The Berkshire County Mosquito Control Project will remain largely unchanged from previous years with a few exceptions.

Residents will have to reapply through the state this year to be on the “no-spray” list. It will take the state two weeks to process the application. Then, residents are required to place signs reading “no spray” on their property that are visible from the street.

Gina Armstrong is Pittsfield’s Director of Public Health.

“That definitely will delay the request whereas before it was fairly efficient. They would either email or call you,” Armstrong says.

“Right but they are going to keep a database for no-sprays for the whole state,” Horton says.

Project Superintendent Chris Horton says residents used to just ask him to skip their property when spraying for mosquitos. But that “no spray” list grew to roughly 150 names, and sometimes the property changed hands without Horton being notified.

He says some residents think the chemicals can cause health issues.

“We don't have a magic wand that can eliminate the mosquitos at the drop of a hat,” Horton says.

Sprayers will also use a different barrier chemical called Mavrik because it’s easier to apply.

“We do do it by truck. It is basically an air compressor that puts out a very fine droplet,” Horton says. “The droplet is designed to be so small that it doesn't settle in the environment. It is going to stay airborne. And that droplet is going to hit a mosquito and that will take the mosquito down.”

Board of Health Chairman Jay Green says residents can ask Mavrik during special events.

“Are you going to be at Third Thursdays again throughout the summer?” Green says.

“Yep, we did Third Thursdays and the farmers markets last year. Really any – the STEM fair at Berkshire Community College – any opportunity we had we will make a presence,” Horton says.

Authorities will also collect samples from mosquitos, and send them to the state to test for West Nile and Eastern equine encephalitis. Then they can target treatment to specific areas.

“Reducing the amount of stagnant water, improving water quality, removing containers that can hold water:  all of those things reduce possible breeding sources, and that makes the problem smaller from the beginning,” Horton says.

Since 2011, there have been 58 cases of West Nile in mosquitoes and one human case in Berkshire County. There have been six mosquito cases of Eastern equine encephalitis.

While last year’s statewide drought meant fewer mosquitos than normal, out of the 136 samples collected, one contained the West Nile virus.

1,610 acres were treated with 7.8 gallons of chemicals.

“It’s resource limited because you can't kill all of the mosquitos because no one can afford that, so,” Horton says.

So far this year, the organization has used more larvicide than all of last year.

“We want to know where the mosquitos are and how many there are, how much breeding habitat that there is, what the potential is for breeding in those habitats,” Horton says.

April’s rain and melting snow caused flooding, which encouraged more mosquitoes to breed.

“As the season progresses, the mosquito population just increase exponentially,” Horton says.

Horton and Health Director Gina Armstrong will decide when and where to spray.

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