June 29, 2013 at 12:30 AM
ESSEX COUNTY, NJ - Essex County has asked that residents concerned over the growing mosquito infestation should make the bugs' locations known to the county by calling the Essex County Mosquito Commission and request attention immediately. The commission’s office may be reached at 973-239-3366, extension 2480, and if the office is closed, callers should leave a specific home address, park name or building location so that the workers can respond appropriately. Callers should be sure to leave their phone number; messages are generally returned during business days and the county expects to make every effort to have an inspector respond to all requests as soon as possible. The department is designed to respond to individual calls from citizens for service.
According to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, (NJDEP), last year, New Jersey had its largest amount of human cases on record, 48, of West Nile Virus. Recently, the state issued a warning that mosquito levels are elevated this year because Sandy increased the opportunity for mosquito breeding.
June's rainfall is the primary factor for the county’s increase of mosquitoes. Most mosquito eggs are laid in catch basins and near pools of still water. Flooding around these areas will quicken the eggs to hatch. The county website explains that “with the right climate and environment, numbers of mosquitoes can reach an incredibly high level.”
It takes a mosquito between seven to ten days to emerge as an adult from an egg.
The life cycle of a mosquito consists of four stages:
Essex County Pest Management Program
The County’s Environmental Services Division utilizes a “Pest Management Program” which they believe provides for a year-round balanced approach to controlling the mosquitoes. Starting in February, surveillance of mosquito larva begins and by early May, the program continues with surveillance of adult mosquitoes. The group continues to set and monitor traps from that time up until November.
Additionally, the department’s goal is to entirely eliminate the insect’s breeding habitats around the county through practices which include removing waste tires, cleaning gutters and general water management programs which consist of developing and maintaining methods for easing the water flow in swampy areas.
Another way the mosquitoes are combated is by the department stocking fish in the larval breeding areas; the fish take care of the mosquitoes naturally by feeding on them.
According to the Essex County Department of Public Works, Essex County utilizes pesticides called “Larvicides” and “Adulticides” to control the mosquitoes through aerial, vehicle and manual spraying. NJ Certified Pesticide Applicators, who are specially trained to follow proper safety precautions, are responsible for spraying the pesticides along the Passaic River Flood Plain. The department follows the warnings associated with the pesticides to minimize any risks to the health of humans as well as to the environment.
Passaic River, Roseland Credit: Jeff Curley
According to the county office, the very best time to utilize the pesticides is during the larval stage so workers do need to wait for the appropriate time to begin the program. When reached for comment by West Essex TAP, the office of the Essex County Executive, Joseph DiVincenzo, responded, “We have started nightly spraying in areas where the mosquito population has become unbearable. If residents have questions about mosquito control, they should call our mosquito hotline.”
Essex County treats some sections of the flood plain using helicopters because the area is too large to be effectively controlled from the ground. For areas where helicopters cannot approach, amphibious vehicles with truck-mounted sprays are used to treat the flood plain along with over 30,000 street basin water areas. The vehicles spray during the early hours and at dusk when mosquito activity is near its peak. In the cases where even a vehicle cannot approach, workers on foot use specially designed backpacks to manually spray the area.
Pesticide Applicators using specially designed pesticide backpacks
West Nile Virus is found in birds and is transmitted to animals, and occasionally humans, through the bite of an infected mosquito. In May, the Department of Health’s Public Health Environmental Laboratory began testing dead crows and blue jays for signs of West Nile Virus activity. Less than one percent of the human population who receive a bite from an infected mosquito will become ill; the elderly and immune-compromised are at higher risk disease complications.
Symptoms of the illness include:
Credit: James Gathany
For more information regarding West Nile Virus, see the state’s informative page available online here.
How Residents Can Help
“This season will be especially challenging because Superstorm Sandy has created new places for mosquitoes to breed such as wet debris piles and depressions left by fallen trees,” the NJ Health Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd explained. “It’s important to remove or clean or repair anything that can collect rain or sprinkler water, such as debris, clogged or damaged gutters or old car tires.”
Eliminate all standing water
Flatten all types of open cans and containers or puncture holes in bottom
Completely seal cesspools and screen all vents
Clean clogged roof gutters and drain flat roofs so no water stays
Cover all standing receptacles, such as rain barrels in rural areas with netting
Empty and refill outdoor bird baths every few days
Stock with fish or aerate garden pools and ponds
Tilt wheelbarrows and machines with containers to prevent holding water
Empty watering cans and wading pools after using
Dispose of old tires, or anything that holds water
Some insect repellents have proven to be extremely effective at preventing mosquito bites, specifically those which contain:
For further information:
Essex County Mosquito Commission
973-239-3366, extension 2480
Essex County Department of Public Works
900 Bloomfield Avenue
Verona, NJ 07044