Letter: Mosquito Control Efforts To Fight Zika

Editor’s note: The following letter is in response to the letter “County Is Aerial Spraying Naled On Our Area” published last week.

This letter is written to educate readers regarding Palm Beach County’s mosquito control efforts. First, please allow me to relate the most important message. The mosquito that can carry the Zika virus (Aedes egypti) is a container breeder. The most effective control of this particular mosquito is for every resident in Palm Beach County to empty the containers of standing water around your yards.

This mosquito does not breed in ditches, ponds and lakes, as other mosquitoes do. It breeds in old tires, potted plants and clogged gutters around our homes and businesses. It takes at least a week of standing water for the eggs to hatch and for the larvae to emerge as flying adults. So it is a weekly effort for each of us to be sure that containers of standing water are emptied, turned over, flushed with a garden hose or, better yet, eliminated.

This particular mosquito does not fly more than a few hundred feet as an adult. So wherever we find it, it was bred nearby. That gives us a clue as to where we need to prioritize our public outreach efforts.

When we find adult Aedes egypti, we employ a multipronged approach to mosquito control, which includes public outreach and public education, and the use of larviciding and adulticiding, both biological and chemical. However, the primary concern today seems to be the use of a pesticide known as Naled.

Naled is used by Palm Beach County in a very limited capacity. It is not used as a result of or in the control of the threat of the Zika virus. There are two reasons for this. First, Aedes eqypti is active during the day. Many other beneficial insects, including bees, are also active during the day. Second, most of our more aggressive biting mosquitoes, but which don’t carry human disease, are active at night. So, we only use Naled at night in the control of what we term nuisance mosquitoes.

Naled is safe for people and pets when applied at or below the label rate. As is true with every control agent we use, Naled is approved for use by both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. Naled is approved at the application rate of up to 1 ounce per acre. Because we use a patented high-pressure sprayer, we only need to apply it at 1/8 ounce per acre. That is one-eighth of the approved label rate.

Still, we limit our aerial application to the minimum frequency necessary to control mosquitoes. We continually monitor mosquito populations in the western communities, and we only spray when it becomes necessary.

In conclusion, we hope the reader takes away three important points from this letter:

First is that we are here to serve you. The health and well-being of residents and visitors is our first priority.

Second is that we are doing everything we can to limit the threat of the Zika virus. However, you can do so much more than we can by emptying any containers of standing water.

Lastly, Naled is safe when judiciously applied, and that is how we have used it for many years.

Rob Robbins, Director, Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management