“The city needs to be pressured to spray for mosquitos regardless of the trap counts. They are absolutely horrible even during the day. There’s too much standing water around for them to not. All we need right now is cases of West Nile virus. We’ve been cooped up far too long to not be able to enjoy the outdoors.”
— A Sun reader in a Facebook message on Friday
One of the ongoing summer concerns for Manitobans has always been — and will forever continue to be — the never-ending scourge of mosquitoes that haunt our evenings, our lawns, and our waterways.
They are among the biggest nuisances of the summer months — not only do they cause irritation for children by covering them with bites, the dreaded Culex tarsalis variety of the little beasts carries West Nile virus that is transmitted when its proboscis penetrates our skin.
But before the end of June, Brandon’s mosquito numbers had been relatively low. Mosquito trap counts taken throughout the month always came back in the low range, mostly due to a lack of significant rainfall since spring. And to be fair, our city has become very efficient at larviciding through the City of Brandon’s Mosquito Abatement Program.
It’s a big job. The city’s website states that students with Brandon University work with the city’s Parks & Recreation staff “to monitor a control area of 102 square miles (264 sq. km) surrounding the City.”
In normal years, larval control methods are generally effective at eliminating concerns over any standing water in and around the city, and along roadways in the ditches. But this is not a normal year.
Recent heavy rains have drenched the region in water, causing streets and basements to flood and the Assiniboine River to flow out of its banks and onto city property. These pools of water have been numerous across the city — far too many for city workers and students to keep up with larviciding efforts.
As a result, Brandonites have been inundated with swarms of mosquitoes across the city, from residential backyards to parks and everywhere in between. Even just walking in the grass behind The Brandon Sun stirs up clouds of the insect. And once the sun goes down in the evenings, for mosquitoes, it’s open season on humanity, made so much more intense by recent watery circumstances.
My social media has been inundated with posts by local citizens complaining about the horrific mosquito infestation plaguing the city this week. One post showed pictures of a young child covered in bites, even though her mother had taken the precaution of using mosquito spray made for children.
“She is so itchy and sore,” her mother said. “Please Brandon fog the city.”
In response to that post, Brandon Coun. Shaun Cameron (University ward) told her that council was working on a strategy that could be formalized by Monday’s regular meeting.
“My hope is we have a plan for fogging in place and able to execute following authorization of the cost Monday,” Cameron said.
The city does have what it calls “Ultra Low Volume adult mosquito control” (ie. fogging) when the city’s Adulticiding Factor Analysis Guidelines value “falls into and remains in the high category for two consecutive trap counts,” if the average of any daily mosquito trap count happens to be more than 1,000 nuisance mosquitoes, or if any individual trap nets more than 2,000.
Alas, the last trap count, dated July 5 only placed us in the “medium range,” meaning it would require higher trap counts or a decision of council to deal with the situation.
Cameron told the Sun on Friday that he has received numerous complaints about the number of mosquitoes in the city, and he’s sure that other councillors have as well.
Much of the stagnant water remains in and around the city, and there is more rain on the way. Budgetary concerns aside, this may be one of those years that — after a spring of being cooped up in our houses thanks to the pandemic — we need council to consider fogging to make what’s left of our summer bearable. Even if the next trap counts don’t corroborate what we have been seeing with our own eyes.
» Matt Goerzen, editor