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Pittsfield Board of Health OKs Trial Use of Mosquito Control Product
By Jack Guerino, iBerkshires Staff
03:59AM / Friday, May 08, 2020
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A presentation on West Nile virus at Wednesday's Board of Health meeting.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Board of Health has approved a 2020 mosquito control plan with a new pilot program aimed at terminating insects carrying Eastern equine encephalitis.
 
Chris Horton of Berkshire Mosquito Control asked the board during a remotely held meeting Wednesday to approve the use of a new product, VectoMax FG.
 
"If we don't get a result then there really won't be a reason to use the product any more," Horton said. "But if we do get a result, it would be a step forward in practice not only here but the study would be published and be part of the scientific community." 
 
Horton said 2019 was a good year in general for mosquito control and that there was only one isolation of West Nile virus compared to 2018's 59 hits.
 
"It basically disappeared for one year but it all starts over," he said. "There is no indication that this year will be either a busy year or a mild year." 
 
As for EEE, the state took measures last year to mitigate mosquitoes carrying the virus. He said aerial spraying in the eastern part of the state was successful.
 
The specific mosquito that typically carries EEE is hard to snuff out because it is difficult to reach the larva that sit in "cryptic" environments in specific trees in swamps, he said, because the larva grow within the trees' root domes. 
 
"Even collecting the larva is problematic because the root dome will have an opening maybe baseball size," he said. "Inside that root dome is basically a water-filled chamber."
 
Because of this it is difficult to reach the larva with a direct application of larvicide.
 
Horton proposed using VectoMax FG, a time release product with wet/dry capability that would allow the product to move through the water table into the crypt to contact the larva.
 
Other than how it works, it is similar to other products the program uses and the two active ingredients are also present in other applications released in past plans. He said the toxins are concentrated through fermentation but are naturally found in the environment.
 
There is also low impact on non-target species and the larvicide would really only affect fungus gnats and black flies, however, the latter are not likely to come in contact with it.
 
Horton said the application is not considered toxic to mammals. He said there is only some concern that it could stir up allergies in the applicator if they have a yeast allergy because of the fermentation process. 
 
He said even the corn cob media the program uses is organic.
 
The plan is to apply the larvicide in the coming weeks and then go back every week for four weeks to collect water samples from inside and outside of the crypt to see if the product is effective. 
 
The lifespan of the product is also 30 days so there will be no residue.
 
He said the protocol was set up by the Pesticide Analysis Laboratory at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, which will conduct the chemical testing.
 
The program would likely be wrapped up at the end of June and he was willing to return to the board to give a report.
 
If successful, the board would then vote to include the product in future plans. 
 
The board also voted to strike a section in the plan that stated if more than 50 percent of the residents on a street want to opt out of spray, they would have to apply chemicals via backpack unit.
 
Horton said this is original to the plan that was developed 10 years ago and it has never been used. This is coupled with the fact that they no longer use backpack spray units.
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