Modern mosquito control involves much more than truck spraying. The Indian River Mosquito Control District provides science-based mosquito control that protects public health, safeguards the Indian River Lagoon, and budgets for unpredictable emergencies.
Like you, the district faces rising costs for fuel and other necessities. The prices of pesticides, contracted flying services, and specialized equipment continue to rise. Annual mosquito control costs are also driven by unpredictable weather and outbreaks of mosquito-transmitted disease.
The science-based disease surveillance program at the district is led by a medical entomologist. Since 1978, the district has analyzed mosquito populations and used flocks of sentinel chickens to monitor for mosquito-transmitted diseases.
West Nile virus, a potentially deadly disease transmitted only by mosquitoes, was first detected in the United States in 1998 and in Florida in 2001. As of Sept. 18, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 3,142 cases and a 134 deaths throughout the United States and 43 cases and two deaths in Florida. Recently, increased virus transmission has been detected in the sentinel chickens throughout the county. Please take extra care to protect yourself against mosquito biting.
Aerial spraying for adult mosquitoes, even on a competitively bid contract basis, is expensive. The district budgets $345,000 per year, nearly 10 percent of its working budget, for three aerial applications reserved for extreme mosquito populations or disease outbreaks. This spraying begins at 27th Avenue to protect the Indian River.
The district has worked with the University of Florida, Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory, and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute to develop effective, science-based water management techniques that control salt marsh mosquitoes and safeguard the Indian River Lagoon. Maintenance and operation of the earthen dikes, culvert pipes, and pumps is labor intensive and an ongoing cost.
Nearly $2 million was spent over the past eight years to repair storm damage. Ten employees work along the Indian River each day to manage these structures and to monitor and hand-treat aquatic salt marsh mosquito populations. In addition, the district contracts with a local flying service to treat large salt marsh breeding areas with granular biopesticides. Though more expensive than conventional pesticides, biopesticides, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “are usually inherently less toxic than conventional pesticides.”
All of the efforts of the district are based on constant biological monitoring of mosquito populations and depend on educated and motivated employees. Education and associated travel expenses are less than 1 percent of the budget. All employees are required to maintain a public health applicator certification and travel to attend state-sanctioned, specialized training for their particular jobs, and certain employees participate in scientific meetings to learn and share their knowledge.
In 1999, after the Teamsters attempted to unionize the district, formal biannual employee reviews were instituted, vacation and sick time accruals were capped, merit-based pay ranges with absolute ceilings were established, and paid family health insurance was continued. As health care costs have risen, the district has taken measures to reduce its health insurance costs. Last year this cost was reduced by 25 percent.
A household with a $150,000 home and a homestead exemption will pay $26.91 for mosquito control this year, the same amount paid last year. This year’s overall budget is 12.5 percent lower than last year due to careful spending and cooperative weather.
The district prudently budgets for the proverbial “rainy day” of nature-driven costs that it cannot control. Out-of-control claims of fiscal mismanagement are mistaken and based on a lack of understanding of the complexity of modern, science-based mosquito control.
Janice Broda, Vero Beach, a longtime member of the Indian River Mosquito Control District, has worked part time the for University of Florida, Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory, where she has written educational software for mosquito control districts and worked on two white papers on Florida mosquito control.