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What's the buzz? Mosquitoes nowhere to be found, for now

But a good rain and a hot day could change that, officials say

July 3, 2012

Despite a recent alert from the Centers for Disease Control that this summer could be one of the worst on record for mosquitoes, local communities are finding that continuing dry conditions have provided a natural abatement - for now.

Health department directors in Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners and Oak Creek this past week reported a dearth of the pesky insects.

Water, water nowhere

"It's so bone dry out there right now that even in the many areas of our community that contain wetlands, mosquitoes are not present," said Franklin's Health Director Bill Wucherer. "The response from the community has been very light relative to complaints about mosquitoes."

Wucherer said this year's conditions are just the opposite from 2010, when the area was inundated with the insects.

"We had so many mosquitoes that year no one knew what to do," he said.

What would it take to reverse current conditions?

"A good classic thunderstorm that will form some puddles and a 70- to 80-degree day would get that started," Wucherer said. "It doesn't take much."

Wucherer said Franklin has changed its approach to mosquito abatement in sewers and catch basins - especially compared to the West Nile virus emphasis of a decade ago. Franklin does not aggressively treat those areas because, he said, the virus has not shown up in regular testing over the years.

"We used to collect mosquitoes to check certain species that carry the disease," he said. "Results were largely negative."

The less aggressive approach has saved about $20,000 annually in staffing and abatement products, he estimated.

Personal experience

"This is really ironic," said Oak Creek Health Director Judy Price. "I was just talking to Dave Cammilleri, our sanitarian, about how we could go out into our backyards and not get bit up. This is supposed to be mosquito awareness week and there aren't any around."

Price said the city has stockpiled mosquito larvicide purchased with a state grant, and that the supply should last another year or two.

Cammilleri said the larvicide is applied to catch basins and other wet areas in early June and that mosquito samples are collected regularly and sent to an epidemiologist at the University of Wisconsin-Extension.

"We use the larvicide in June and then episodically around stagnant water if we need to," Cammilleri said.

Larvicide will work for up to about four months, he said, so it will work if the weather changes and conditions generate a more typical mosquito population.

Smaller communities like Greendale and Hales Corners continue to apply larvicide with the intent that the application will be effective for at least a few more months.

"We haven't had much of a problem here," said Health Director Debra Persak of Hales Corners. "We'll continue to test and look for outcomes."

In Greendale, Health Director Sue Shepeard said the village, like other communities, will test dead birds as well as treat wet areas as it did last week.

"We communicate to our residents that they should follow precautions like avoiding having any open pools of water around their homes," she said. "We ask them to drain birdbaths and pools and generally get rid of any stagnant water."

Beyond mosquitoes

With the mosquito population low, Oak Creek recently held a public seminar on Lyme disease. Price said 30 attended, a few with symptoms such as joint pain beyond typical arthritis.

"Despite the absence of mosquitoes, ticks that can cause Lyme disease are still prevalent," Price said. "We're glad that the mosquitoes aren't here, but people still need to be aware of other things like ticks and Lyme disease."

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