Insecticide sprayed along Eastern Shore to kill mosquitoes

August 08, 1994|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Sun Staff Writer

State officials began an air assault on salt marsh mosquitoes over the weekend, hoping to scratch out a victory against the insects plaguing the middle and lower Eastern Shore in recent weeks.

The problem hasn't been so severe since 1989, Lewis R. Riley, the state secretary of agriculture, said yesterday from his home on the Shore.

"Mosquitoes are an annoying nuisance and a real health threat," he said.

Mr. Riley said many people joke about Eastern Shore mosquitoes, saying that those who live in tidewater areas ought to be used to them.

"But this situation is not funny," he said. "Encephalitis [inflammation of the brain] is a real health threat."

The three-day operation, which began Saturday night, employs a twin-engine aircraft to spray tidewater areas of Dorchester, Somerset and Calvert counties with the insecticide Dibrom.

Cyrus Lesser, chief of the state mosquito control section, said yesterday that spraying of about 6,000 acres in Wicomico County was postponed.

More testing will be done in Wicomico County to determine if the problem there merits spraying, he said.

With favorable weather conditions anticipated, Mr. Lesser said the operation would cover about 25,000 acres and be completed early today.

Used at a rate of 1 fluid ounce per acre, the insecticide spray is a mist that is not visible from the ground, he said.

Dibrom is highly effective in reducing the mosquito population, but is not hazardous to the environment or human health, Mr. Lesser said.

The state also uses mosquito-eating fish and biological larvicides to combat mosquitoes, but the recent emergence of the insects has overwhelmed biological control efforts, Mr. Lesser said.

The recent hot and humid weather and excessive rain have created many mosquito-breeding grounds, such as puddles and standing water in fields and forests, said Mr. Riley.

The state mosquito control section approaches the problem scientifically, conducting actual counts in an area to determine the need for spraying, Mr. Riley said.

The cost of the aerial spray program is about $2 per acre, said Mr. Lesser.

Normally that cost is shared 50-50 with the county subdivision, he said.

Results from spraying are "almost immediate," Mr. Riley said. "The spray kills them within an hour or so."

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