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New Lemon Fair Insect Control District Approved To Start Work

Tuesday May 2, 2006

By Ed Barna

    Bad news for the bugs: voters in Bridport and Cornwall overwhelmingly approved forming the state’s second insect control district in Australian ballot voting on Tuesday, April 25.

Special town meetings in those communities--the only ones voting--immediately authorized the new district to go into action, according to Tom Vanacore of Bridport, chairman of the Joint Survey Committee that worked out the details. The agreement they had brought to the two Select Boards was reviewed by the Attorney General’s office and deemed acceptable as the foundation document, he said.

The margin of approval in the two towns was remarkably similar. In Bridport, it was 118-17, according to Town Clerk Valerie Bourgeois. In Cornwall, it was 119-15, said Town Clerk Susan Johnson.

There was one difference, though. Johnson said, “I was quite impressed by the turnout.” Bourgeois said the Bridport turnout was low, since there are 860-some voters on the checklist.

However, there was one other similarity between the two towns, according to the town clerks: mosquitoes had already made an appearance, thanks to an unusually summer-like period in mid-April.

Another possible factor in the district’s overwhelming approval may have been its orientation toward larvaciding, but not toward spraying for adult mosquitoes. In that respect, Lemon Fair will be different from the Brandon-Leicester-Salisbury-Goshen Insect Control District, which backs up the attacks on unhatched mosquitoes with ultra-low-volume fogging if that doesn’t work.

Using the biological larvacide BTI to attack the little black “wrigglers” (which volunteers in both districts use dippers to scoop out of likely problem waters and count) works very well, when it works at all. According to state entomologist Jon Turmel, the immature mosquitoes have to be hit during a particular stage of growth when they are vulnerable to the caterpillar disease derivative (organic gardeners often use BT, a related product, on cabbage worms).

If rains go on and on, and the weather is hot, the mosquitoes can grow right through that vulnerable stage before it is practical to attack them. Turmel regularly advises those with unrealistic hopes of controlling mosquitoes that when Mother Nature is determined to produce a crop, she’s hard to stop.

That doesn’t mean Lemon Fair area residents don’t have any recourse. Vanacore said there are licensed applicators who can be privately contracted when adult mosquitoes are troublesome (those planning romantic country weddings in the area this summer should take note).

But not taking on the job of controlling adult mosquitoes means the Lemon Fair district won’t need to own trucks and sprayers, help train and license applicators, put people who don’t want to be sprayed on a don’t spray list, and so on. Pesticides can be controversial: malathion, the product the BLSG group formerly used, is now considered less safe than synthetic pyrethrins; and BLSG now uses water-based products, rather than “inert” ingredients that may have contained petroleum distillates.

For the immediate future, Vanacore said, they have an arrangement with JBI helicopters of Pembroke, New Hampshire to come and drop BTI if a major hatch is developing. BLSG uses them, too, and since the company requires a minimum of 1,000 acres, getting Lemon Fair to join in may make it easier to get a helicopter in timely fashion.

For the long run, Vanacore said, they continue to work toward getting a used crop dusting plane now in Arkansas. An area pilot is willing to use it, but he said he was not in a position to talk now about the details.

Both districts are trying to let people know that if there are things like old tires, unchanged birdbaths, and other objects containing stagnant water on their properties, they may be arranging their own personal delivery of mosquitoes.

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