I started working at Clarke when I was 18. It was my first real job, and I often say that I’ve “grown up” here. Over the last 15 years, I’ve learned a lot about this business, and the things that community members care about. By my best estimate, I have spent at least 6000 hours on the phone fielding questions from residents about mosquito control.
Based on my experience, here are the top 10 things residents want to know about your community’s mosquito control program. It’s important to note that the specific answers to these commonly asked questions might vary depending on the mosquito control product being used in your community. But generally:
- Will spray treatments harm me, my kids, or my pets? We understand that the potential for pesticide exposure concerns many. And, we know many individuals are generally sensitive to chemicals, whether they’re from a perfume or a pesticide, and take steps to limit exposure whenever possible. However, mosquito control treatments, applied correctly, using EPA-registered products, will not harm humans or pets. That said, we do offer residents the ability to sign-up for advance notification of scheduled applications, so they can plan accordingly.
- Do I need to cover my plants before a treatment? Are garden veggies safe to eat after a treatment? Plants and garden beds do not need to be covered or harvested before a treatment. Just use the same practice that should be followed with grocery or market produce, and rinse with water and a mild detergent before consuming.
- Should I turn off the air conditioning in my house or shut windows when a spray treatment occurs? Leave the A/C on! Windows may also remain open. Decades ago, this was a common recommendation but as application technology and chemistries have evolved, this is no longer a necessary measure.
- Will mosquito treatments also control ticks? Insecticides are not one size-fits all, and treatments to reduce mosquito populations will not work on ticks. Why? Mosquitoes are flying; ticks are crawling; AND they are a completely different type of insect, with a different body size. Tick applications need to be made at ground-level where they crawl, and with significantly greater doses of product than required for mosquito control.
- What are the impacts of treatments on caterpillars, butterflies or lightening bugs? (Ahh . . . you were waiting for this one!) This one gets tricky and can be very product specific, but generally, the answer is, have no fear! Yes, certain active ingredients in pesticides may be toxic to beneficial insects upon direct exposure. But when it comes to mosquito control, four key things reduce this risk:
- We don’t spray just the active ingredients. We use highly-refined formulations, most of which are made with less than 5% of an active ingredient.
- ULV treatments deliver a very, very small amount of product optimized to control mosquitoes – usually about 1 tablespoon or less to treat an acre (which is roughly four typical suburban home lots). Why so little? Because the dose is specific to mosquitoes, which are much smaller in weight than most beneficial insects. For reference, mosquitoes weigh between 2 and 10mg each. A firefly weights at least 20mg.
- Next, that very small amount of product is delivered in super-tiny droplets – think 15 droplets on a pin head. The droplets float through the air and work by making physical contact with adult mosquitoes in-flight.
- And lastly, we spray at night, when mosquitoes are active and other beneficial insects are not.
- Won’t mosquito spraying hurt the bees? Mosquito spraying and bees – this is another sensitive issue and one that everyone in public health mosquito control takes very seriously. Firstly, the same protective measures followed to protect other beneficial insects also apply to bees. There has also been a lot of field work and research published by very reputable academic institutions, such as Louisiana State University and Rutgers, which demonstrate that ULV treatments for mosquito control do not harm bees, even in cases of direct spray applications.
- Why can’t I see the mist coming out of your truck? I didn’t hear your truck! Less – and quieter – is better! ULV spray technology has evolved quite a bit since the days of DDT fogger treatments. Modern chemistries, more advanced, quieter spray equipment, and variable weather conditions mean the spray cloud is not always visible or audible – but that doesn’t mean it’s not working!
- Your trucks are driving too fast for that treatment to work! You missed my house! Every Clarke application truck is equipped with two pieces of technology that ensure spray effectiveness and safety. First is a monitoring system called SmartFlow. This equipment adjusts spray volume as vehicle speed changes to ensure a uniform treatment rate. So, whether we are driving 5 or 15 mph, the right application rate is being dispersed. The second technology used is called GeoTab, which is a GPS-based application that tracks vehicle locations, vehicle speeds, and spray activity (on/off) in real-time.
- Why can’t you spray more often? The timing of spray treatments is always closely coordinated with the communities we serve, and dependent upon the makeup of their mosquito control program and budget. To determine spray requirements, we look at data from surveillance traps in the area, and combine it with insights from predictive software, resident calls, and resource availability to time adult mosquito treatments to deliver the most relief.
- It rained right after you sprayed – did it still work? Last but not least, ULV spray treatments followed by rain are usually still effective, as long as there were adult mosquitoes in flight at the time of treatment. However, the lasting power of barrier treatments sprayed on plant foliage can be compromised by weather.
Public health mosquito control exists not only to mitigate nuisance mosquito populations and make our communities more livable and comfortable. Its primary function is to protect public health from the diseases that are vectored to humans by mosquitoes, like Zika and West Nile Virus.
Education is one of the five key pillars of Integrated Mosquito Management. I spend most of my professional time sharing these messages with residents in the communities we serve, and hope every reader here finds them equally helpful. If you are interested in learning more, drop us a line.