Archive for the ‘general’ Category

Spring No-spray To-Do List

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

Things to do this spring:

Spraying makes a bad problem worse

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

When reports of West Nile virus appear in the news and drought-driven mosquito populations increase, there is a tendency by well-meaning residents to call for community-wide spraying. In turn, well-meaning city officials want to be seen as addressing the problem. Trucks driving through neighborhoods in the early morning hours with flashing lights and loud spraying equipment can be offered as camera-ready proof that residents’ concerns are being dealt with. Unfortunately, the toxic trucks aren’t merely ineffective; they make the health problem worse.

  • Spraying efforts take resources that could be used to actually reduce mosquito habitat.  These resources are instead spent on “mosquito-control theater” — giving the false illusion of reducing mosquito-borne-disease risk while doing little to actually secure public health.
  • By spraying neighborhoods, the residents believe that the mosquito problem has been addressed. With this false sense of security, residents lose motivation to look for mosquito sources around their yards and neighborhoods. Without source reduction, any temporary relief from mosquitoes is lost when the incubating larva emerge in the following days—affected by neither the now-decimated (and slower-maturing) predator population nor the airborne toxic chemicals.
  • Emboldened residents continue risky behavior and expose themselves to daytime-biting Asian tiger mosquitoes. This type of mosquito is inactive at night and is thus generally unaffected by community spraying efforts. It’s also a carrier of West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis virus.
  • Spraying breeds pesticide resistance. This means that should a disease like malaria or dengue fever appear in the mosquito population, the last-ditch defense against human infections will have been compromised.


2010 Spraying Season

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

It’s that time of year again– folks who’d requested exemption from mosquito spraying last year should have received letters from Columbus Public Health detailing what you need to do to opt-out again this year.  You might have noticed a new name at the bottom: Aaron DelCotto is the new Vector Control Program Coordinator for mosquito control. Joe Herrod (Aaron’s predecessor) contacted me earlier this year to meet Aaron– we three got together and discussed the program, past concerns, and future directions.  I was pleased that Joe (and Aaron) had been proactive in reaching-out; I was also pleased with the information they shared.  Some highlights:

  • CPH will continue to use “green” larvicides around sensitive areas when the areas are found to be harboring West-Nile-Virus-infected mosquitos. Last year, they used VectoLex in Walhalla Ravine after detecting West Nile virus in mosquitoes trapped there.
  • CPH is exploring the use of another environmentally friendly larvicide, Natular. Natular is of particular interest as it’s actually permitted to be used on organic crops.
  • CPH has “response teams” that will address mosquito problems as part of CPH’s integrated pest management program.  You can call in to the city’s 311 call center at 311 or 645-3111 (or visit to report mosquitoes; a team will be dispatched to the location to make an assessment.  In many cases, the teams will identify the sources of the problem and work to educate folks on source reduction — the cheapest and most effective method of attacking a mosquito problem.  They’ll go door-to-door to get neighbors to drain standing water (in planters, mobile basketball goalposts, bird baths, rain gutters, etc.).
  • CPH is contending with an onslaught of unmaintained swimming pools because of the rash of foreclosures. These present perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes (in addition to drowning hazards). If you know of an unmaintained swimming pool in your neighborhood, please report it immediately to the city’s 311 call center by calling 311 or 645-3111 (or by visiting
  • CPH will continue to spray/fog with adulticides when other control mechanisms have failed and WNV is detected.  I had noticed that last year’s application areas seemed smaller and appeared to be more well-targeted.  I asked Joe about this and he said that they had been continually working to integrate the geography and local conditions into their spraying plans and that what I observed may have been a result of that.
  • CPH has all of their fogging crews certified in insecticide application.  This is above and beyond the EPA’s legal requirements and helps to ensure that the folks know the law. As an aside, the folks on the crews are temporary employees and are primarily school teachers.

In the past, CPH has used permethrin-based adulticides (with piperonyl butoxide).  I’m assuming the same chemicals will be used again this year, but it can vary based on availability/supply and budget (Aaron mentioned that they’re considering the use of Duet, a compound of two other pyrethroids).   These are the chemicals that many of us would prefer to avoid and are the basis of our annual opt-out requests.  The rules this year for the opt-out process are essentially the same as last year:

  • The property owner (unfortunately, not the tenant) must write to CPH with a request to be exempted from mosquito spraying
  • In the exemption request, include your printed name, address, and phone number; you may optionally include your email address (this is to allow for faster notification to you in case of any need to over-rule the opt-out request)
  • The request must be signed.
  • The request should be mailed to:
Columbus Public Health
240 Parsons Avenue
Columbus, OH 43215-5331
  • The opt-out requests will be honored as long as there isn’t a public health emergency (the kind that would draw the attention of the national news). In that case, CPH would attempt to notify “opt-out requesters” in advance so that the requesters could take steps to minimize exposure.

As always, please do your part to reduce our mosquito population.  The lower the mosquito population, the less likely CPH will need to spray. Here are ways that you (and your neighbors) can help:

  • Dump standing water from anything that can collect it — saucers under potted plants, water bowls for pets, lawn waste cans, even pop cans.
  • Make sure you dump and replace the water in any bird baths at least once a week. Consider using a Water Wiggler (available at Wild Birds Unlimited) to prevent mosquito infestation.
  • Check your gutters for debris. Remove anything that might create even the smallest dam.
  • Make sure the openings in your rain barrels are protected by screen.
  • For places that you can’t drain (hollow trees, still/fishless ponds, outdoor drains, etc.), consider using Bt dunks (available at Oakland Nursery); dunks are a little pricey, but they last for a month and can be divided for smaller volumes of water.

In addition, please practice responsible personal protection when you’re outside:

CPH’s mosquito control page is available at  From there, you can view CPH’s mosquito trapping statistics at and CPH’s planned mosquito spraying areas at Note that the spraying map is typically updated the Friday before the week of spraying.