Local News

What do to about bugs? To spray or not to spray

Salisbury mosquitos get a pass from insect control district, citizens reject pesticide use

By John Vaaler

Salisbury will no longer be sprayed for mosquitos by the Brandon Leicester Salisbury Goshen & Pittsford Insect Control District (BLSG), which voted at a meeting June 24 to suspend the town’s services starting July 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year.

“This is all uncharted; it has not happened before,” said BLSG board member Jeff Schumann, who is also president of the Lake Dunmore Fern Lake Association.

Although Salisbury will not be receiving services from the BLSG, the town will still be represented by two board members and remain a part of the insect control district.

The BLSG also services the town of Proctor.

The insect control district’s decision follows the vote by Salisbury on Town Meeting Day last March to stop funding the BLSG after voters rejected its proposed $25,411 budget.

Environmental concerns were a main reason for Salis- bury’s decision to defund the BLSG. The Town Meeting Day vote followed a report from last February by the Vermont Endangered Species Committee that recommended the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources require the BLSG to apply for a permit to further use their adulticide programs, which could have potentially adverse effects on endangered bat populations.

The vote to suspend Salisbury’s services was unanimous.

“If we’re gonna service five towns, then five towns will contribute,” Schumann said.

The BLSG uses two methods of mosquito control: larvicide, which kills off larval mosquitos in aquatic areas, and adulticide, which sprays pesticides from a truck to eliminate fully grown mosquitoes.

“Larvicide is a solid pellet product which can be spread by hand or via an aircraft,” Schumann explained. “There is no spraying, just an application to an area of water.”

The BLSG’s vote means that after July 1, Salisbury resi- dents who want areas sprayed with pesticides will have to turn to private contractors instead of the publicly subsidized BLSG.

“If private residents really need spraying, there are private folks they can hire, but the BLSG at this point are not going to spray [in Salisbury],” said BLSG member Paul Vaczy, who also serves on the Salisbury Select Board. Salisbury resident and herpetologist Jim Andrews said that spraying from private entities offers more choice for residents. “[Right now], the residents of the town are paying for the spraying,” Andrews said. “The private route is prob- ably a better route. If people want to have their home or area sprayed there are people that can do it.”

Andrews supported cutting the BLSG’s funding over concerns with adulticide harming reptiles and other vertebrates.

“I think the larvicide program is much safer,” he said. “[But] you’re still gonna have impacts on ecosystems [from larvicide].

“You’re removing food items for salamanders and other invertebrates to feed on. But in terms of area im- pacted, it’s far less with the larvicide than the adulticide.”

Meanwhile, Salisbury’s future with the BLSG’s future is uncertain.

“We’re going to use this time to talk to the town of Salisbury about what type of relationship there may or may not be,” Vaczy said when asked about the possibility of BLSG services returning to Salisbury.

Vaczy and Schumann are the two BLSG board members who will represent the mosquito district in talks with Salisbury over the next fiscal year.

Even though Salisbury’s decision means that the BLSG will no longer spray pesticides in the town, Vaczy is somewhat optimistic that the suspension of services won’t adversely affect Salisbury residents too much.

“With the tremendous dryness and heat we’re having, things tend to taper out,” Vaczy said. “The height of the [mosquito] season is April, May, June.”

Schumann is still unsure about the veracity of claims that adulticide is harmful to bats or other wildlife.

“The science is not 100% clear on that,” said Schumann. “Like any other science, you can read studies to decide if these things are happening.”

Equally unconvincing to Schumann is the view that larvicide or adulticide is a more effective medium for controlling mosquito populations.

“I don’t think you can get all of the mosquitos with larvicide; I don’t think you can get them all with adulticide; I don’t think you can get them all with both,” said Schumann.

The neighboring insect control district to the BLSG is the Lemon Fair district, which covers Bridport, Cornwall and Weybridge. Lemon Fair only uses larvicide extermination on mosquitos.

Lemon Fair chair David Dodge speculated that Salisbury residents might have been quick on the draw when they initially voted to defund the BLSG because of the insect control district’s adulticide program.

“You can’t paint with a broad brush and say [larvicide] is better than [adulticide],” Dodge said. “You might have really bad mosquitoes and the only way to deal with them is using adulticide…. “I strongly suspect if they have a really bad mosquito season, [Salisbury residents will say]: ‘boy, we should have kept that service.”

No progress on a deal

Members of the BLSG held a special meeting at the Leicester Meeting House July 1 to discuss plans for the insect control district’s relationship with the town of Salisbury. But they didn’t make much progress.

“Two motions were made, one did not get a second and the other was withdrawn,” said Schumann.

“No action was taken,” he added.

Some board members at the July 1 BLSG meeting called Salisbury’s March vote reckless.

“People voted not to pay us because they had the ability to say no,” one member said. “I don’t see why we’re negotiating [with Salisbury].”

One topic discussed at the meeting was if Salisbury was ever going to be serviced for mosquitoes again and how much Salisbury might have to pay for servicing in the future.

“I think the most important part is there is still a dialogue between the town of Salisbury and the BLSG,” said Vaczy.

“The state is doing what it can to support a larvicide pro- gram instead of an adulticide program.”

Vaczy and other members suggested tallying up how much money Salisbury might owe by accounting for how much the town has paid in the past for larvicide costs versus adulticide costs.

A group of members will discuss the costs of adulticide and larvicide before the BLSG’s next meeting.

“A committee is going to look at the entire budget and attempt to allocate each line item to either adulticide or larvicide or a percentage to each,” Schumann said. “Hopefully they will complete this and the entire BLSG board will approve it before July 13, which is when the next Salisbury Select Board meeting takes place and they could then consider it.”

Vaczy also expressed hopes that the committee might find out an accurate cost of future BLSG larvicide services for Salisbury.

“There is a disparity in the numbers,” he said. “We’ll try to see what we can come up with and have an honest discussion.

“Certainly one of the issues is the townsfolk voted to not fund the BLSG, so we will have to figure out how to move forward from there.”

Although Salisbury residents voted to defund the BLSG, the town did not vote to leave the insect control district.

The BLSG’s board floated the idea of making an environ- mental committee to discuss the insect control district’s use of adulticide as the Vermont Endangered Species Committee has determined that method of mosquito control could be possibly harmful to endangered bats and other wildlife.

“There are folks — quite a percentage of the town — concerned with pesticide use to bats, bees, humans,” Vaczy said. “That’s the science. Pesticides are a concern; the concern over pesticide use is what made the vote in Salisbury to not fund the BLSG.”

But although the environmental committee was put on the board meeting’s agenda, the July 1 meeting ended shortly after the environmental committee was mentioned.

“Nothing has been done with regards to that,” Vaczy said. “It obviously didn’t get very far.”

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