Middleburg Mulls Mosquito Eradication Options

Another wet spring coupled with above-average temperatures in Loudoun combined to boost the mosquito population, prompting the Middleburg town staff to explore ways to rid the town of the unwelcome visitors.

Town staff members are looking at ways to eradicate the mosquito population, which Deputy Town Administrator Will Moore said many residents feel has grown in strength and numbers over last summer. The discussion centers on a possible two-step solution—to better educate residents on mosquito prevention and to purchase thousands of larvicide tablets to give residents.

Moore said some residents began talking about a possible mosquito problem last month, as they noticed the insects in standing water on their properties—in gutters, rain barrels, trash and recycling bins, flower pot trays, bird baths, water pales, wheelbarrows and other areas that retain water.

Staff discussions on the matter landed the town in talks with the Clarke mosquito control company, which has a contract with the state that municipalities can ride if they’re in need of assistance. Moore said the town can purchase larvicide tablets from Clarke at the commonwealth’s rate of $300 per case—cases that contain 50 cards of 12 tablets a piece. He said the town is considering purchasing two to four cases, up to 2,400 tablets, but will need to get Town Council approval first.

If the town moves forward with the purchase, the tablets would be available to residents at the Town Office to pick up, take home and drop in any pools of standing water they don’t want to dump out, such as birdbaths. In that scenario, the birds would be unaffected by the chemicals, which would activate within 24 hours and would kill mosquito larva for up to 60 days.

If the town were to not purchase the tablets from Clarke through Virginia’s contract, residents could purchase them from Clarke themselves at more than double the price—$15 for one card, or about $1.25 for one tablet, as opposed to Virginia’s price of 51 cents per tablet.

Residents at any time can also purchase larvicide tablets at Middleburg Millwork, which, according to its owner Bob Ball, always has them in stock, along with mosquito spray.

Regardless of whether the town decides to purchase the tablets from Clarke, Moore said it would do its part to educate residents on mosquito breeding and how they can prevent their yards from becoming breeding grounds.

He said the town would soon add that information to its website and in the weekly Friday email newsletter. He said it also might send out additional information in residents’ utility bills

Moore said the town is also talking with Clarke about a possible town-wide mosquito spray—something it’s never done before. He said Clarke is currently putting together pricing for town staff to present to the Town Council.

Moore said he’s hoping the town will have that information in time for the June 27 council meeting.

Not all Middleburg residents are experiencing the same concerns. Two-year town resident Will Nisbet and 20-year resident Treavor Lord both said they haven’t seen more mosquitos than usual this year.

As for residents in other western Loudoun towns, mosquitos don’t seem to be posing a greater issue to them than they have in the past but continue to be a concern.

Lovettsville resident Jessica Woolwine said they’re “really horrific” in town and that the mosquito spray and candles she and her husband use don’t seem to keep the flying pests away. Woolwine also said she’s noticed an increase in the number and size of spiders around her house, which she attributes to the high numbers of mosquitos—a popular spider food source.

The Town of Purcellville also hasn’t experienced an increase in mosquitos, but did send out a press release last month reminding residents to keep their yards trimmed to keep mosquitos and ticks out.

The Loudoun County Department of Health also regularly responds to complaints of standing water and provides residents with educational material and larvicide tablets during times of concern about mosquito-borne illness, like the Zika or West Nile Viruses.

Health Department Director David Goodfriend said that, while the county does not have a continuous mosquito control program and does not actively conduct surveillance on mosquito populations, it’s willing to work with towns, HOAs, businesses and residents to help them reduce the risks of mosquito bites.

Goodfriend cited the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a go-to source for residents to learn more about mosquitos and preventing bites. The CDC urges residents to empty, scrub, turn over, cover, or discard containers holding standing water on a weekly basis.

Overall, mosquitos multiply by laying their eggs on the walls of water-filled containers. That happens when the climate is wet and warm—a climate Loudoun has exemplified in recent months.

According to the National Weather Service, rainfall in the Washington, DC, area in January, February and March surpassed those month’s year-to-year averages by a combined nearly 2 inches and were up by a combined 3.15 inches from the same period last year.

As for warm weather, the average temperature in the region every month this year has been higher, or right on par with, year-to-year average temperatures. In all, 2019 in this area has been 15 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than normal.

pszabo@loudounnow.com

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