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Mosquito Control Program
The Amherst Highway Department has been home to the Town’s Mosquito Control Division for more than 30 years. What started as a program for the spraying of nuisance mosquitoes has evolved into a complete program of larviciding, adulticiding and surveillance based on resident complaints and virus activity.
Our program begins in March with larval surveillance and a five-week to six-week larviciding program that attacks the spring floodwater mosquitoes throughout the Town. With over 1,500 acres of wetlands in the Town, considerable lead time is needed for treatment, and is available with these mosquito species, which are slow to develop due to low water and air temperatures.
From mid-May through early October, the Mosquito Control Program serves three functions: 1) treatment of more than 6,000 roadside storm receivers throughout the Town; 2) adulticide spraying in areas of residential complaints; and 3) surveillance of adult mosquitoes using a variety of trapping methods, and sending in samples for virus testing in conjunction with the NYS Department of Health.
Roadside storm receiver larviciding during the late spring and early summer – just ahead of peak transmission time of mosquito-borne viruses including West Nile Virus (WNV) – is a necessity, as Cx. pipiens-restuans, the main vector of WNV, uses water found in these receivers as breeding sites. Other potential breeding sites for these mosquitoes and others include bird baths, abandoned swimming pools, swimming pool covers, buckets and tires.
Spraying for adult mosquitoes is considered a last resort, and is done based on resident complaints. Spraying is not done on a set weekly schedule – residents must call the Highway Department during the season in order to be assessed for possible spraying. A pickup truck is used for backyard spraying, and in larger neighborhoods, a tracked machine is used along Town-maintained trails. Most spraying is done to combat the summer species that breed in ponding rainwater, as these species can develop in as little as five to seven days under optimum conditions. These species include Ae. vexans, which has tested positive for WNV in Amherst and is a voracious human biter.
The surveillance program is in place to monitor the species present in the Town, the number of mosquitoes present in various areas and at various times of the season, and virus presence in the Town. Our program sets 20 to 40 traps each week (dependent on the time of year and weather conditions) for approximately 18-20 weeks from May to October throughout the Town. Trapping occurs throughout the Town, including both wooded areas and residential areas. In general, three trap types are used: 1) CDC Light traps, which use dry ice to attract female mosquitoes looking for a blood meal; 2) CDC Gravid traps, which use a solution of hay and water to attract egg-laying female mosquitoes; and 3) “receiver-style” gravid traps, which are modified CDC Gravid traps that use the water present in roadside receivers as an attractant. Different species are often more attracted to one type of trap than another. Mosquito samples from these traps are identified by species and sent for virus testing through the NYSDOH, which in turn notifies the Town program of any positive results.
Our aggressive trapping methods and trap placement over the years have produced more than 310 WNV-positive mosquito samples since 2003, including more than 120 in 2012 alone. In addition, more than two dozen pools have tested positive for other viruses throughout the Town. Amherst is the only town in Erie County that has its own self-sufficient Mosquito Control program, and all of our chemical applicators are professionally trained and licensed in the use of pesticides through NYS Department of Environmental Conservation education and testing.
Inquiries about the program and treatment requests can be made by contacting the Highway Department at 716-631-5990 x 5926 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.