Mosquitoes flourish in standing water left by Irene

By Frances Taylor - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Fri., Sep. 23, 2011
Keeney Cove is just one of several sites in town where mosquitoes are breeding. Photos by Frances Taylor.
Keeney Cove is just one of several sites in town where mosquitoes are breeding. Photos by Frances Taylor.

The lights are on, the debris has been picked up, and the flood waters have receded. But tropical storm Irene left behind ideal conditions for the breeding of mosquitoes, and a late-season bumper crop of mosquitoes has been found in low-lying wetland areas of town. In response, the town has stepped up its spraying and larvacide program in areas that continue to have standing water.

When it comes to mosquitoes, “generally there is a lull during the dry season” in the late summer and early fall, said James Cordier, East Hartford’s director of public health. “But tropical storm Irene left 16 feet of standing water meadows in areas of East Hartford – it has created an extraordinary breeding situation,” he said.

The state was already battling mosquitoes before the storm because of frequent rains throughout the summer and heavy snow melt in the spring. Mosquitoes can survive until the first frost, usually mid-October.

Areas most affected in town include King Street, Old Main Street, and Case Street, as well as parks such as Martin, McAuliffe, Gorman, Goodwin and McKenna. Crews using back-pack sprayers are going into these areas to spray for mosquitoes, Cordier said.

In a statement, Mayor Marcia A. Leclerc urged residents to limit the amount of time spent outside at dawn and at dusk in heavily-infested areas, and to eliminate areas of standing water on their property.

While the town is not able to spray private property infected with mosquitoes, “we are attempting to protect residents by larvaciding the storm drain system and spraying wetland areas that buffer private property,” Cordier added. “As little as a teaspoon of standing water on your property that collects in clogged gutters, rain barrels and lawn ornaments for more that four days can provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes.” Residents with swimming pools can purchase “mosquito dunks” from the town for $3 to place in such areas to kill larvae and adult mosquitoes.

“We've been getting a lot of calls about this – the mosquitoes are driving people crazy, quite frankly,” Cordier said.

Innovative Mosquito Management, a company based in Madison, is conducting spraying operations throughout town. Using a range of equipment, from a motorized boat with treads called a “Marsh Master,” to a truck-mounted sprayer, the company begins its work at dusk, when mosquitoes become most active.

“There are 50 different mosquito species in Connecticut,” said Kurt Ehrhart, owner of Innovative Mosquito Management. “East Hartford has two rivers that flow through it – the Hockanum and Connecticut rivers. This means there are a lot of wetland areas that become a breeding ground for mosquitoes, particularly this year.”

“We are using an ultra-low-volume spray of a chemical called Resmethrin – it knocks down the adult mosquitoes very effectively and it only lasts about four hours in the environment, making it very safe for people,” Ehrhart said.

In areas of standing water, the company uses a naturally-occurring spore that is used to kill larvae. “It’s basically absorbed by larvae, causing them to implode,” Ehrhart said, adding that crews will be out until the first frost wipes out much of the mosquito population.

To report a high level of mosquito activity at your home, contact the East Hartford Health Department at 860-291-7324.

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