Hillsborough County launching aerial mosquito assault

Hillsborough County fighting mosquitoes by plane

TAMPA, Fla. -- If you've been slapping and swatting at mosquitoes this week you're not alone.

The good news, these are not the kind of mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus. The bad news, say critics, is the type of chemical that Hillsborough Mosquito Control plans to rain down over parts of Tampa Monday night.

Local mosquito control officials insist there's no need for concern.

Folks living in South Tampa can tell you it has been thick with mosquitoes here the past few days. 

“It's been pretty bad, that we were coming out now instead of at dusk,” said Althea Davis, preferring to brave the heat over the biting insects.

Mosquito control officials say blame it on the moon. In particular, last week’s unusually large full moon, also called the Milk Moon or Flower Moon.

The lunar event created unusually high tides. In fact, high enough that the water spilled over into low-lying areas like this the mangroves inside South Tampa’s Picnic Park, where mosquitoes have laid their eggs. 

Hillsborough County Mosquito Control Director Donnie Hayes says they've been spraying with trucks and even their helicopter since then, but that hasn't been cutting it. “So we are going to go ahead and schedule that Ariel mission,” said Hayes.

Monday night at sundown they're breaking out the big guns, spraying 22,000 acres around South Tampa and MacDill Air Force base by plane.

Fortunately, says Hayes, these aren't the kind of mosquitoes that carry Zika. But those will be here soon.

“This is a chance to get those spray systems out there that we haven't used here during the winter months,” said Hayes, “So we can kind of work out any kinks and get the application made.”

The bigger issue, for some, is the chemical being used, called Dibrom.

While approved by the EPA, the European Union has banned agricultural use of the chemical contained within it, called Naled.

“Let's go and ask Europe why they don't want to use it. We're humans just like the European people, right? It makes no sense,” said Brenda Diaz, a concerned mother of three.

Naled is the same the stuff people in Puerto Rico and Miami protested against during the Zika spike last year.

Hayes says they don't use it all the time, but rather add it to a rotation of pesticides. 

“If you use the same exact product over and over, you end up building up a resistance in that mosquito, to where the pesticide no longer kills those adult mosquitoes,” said Hayes.

Local officials also insist the concentration of less than an ounce per acre is safe for humans, pets and other wildlife.

Also, Dibrom, they say, breaks down in sunlight.

So whatever they spray overnight, said Hayes, dissipates by the next morning.

Unlike, perhaps, the debate over what’s in it.

“As long as it's not bad for anything else, I don't mind it,” said South Tampa resident Mike Fleck.

But Althea Davis disagreed. “Even if they say it's safe, it's not safe. Because our bodies are telling us,” said Davis.

Monday night’s aerial spraying will concentrate on South Tampa, MacDill Air Force Base and the Hookers Point neighborhood near Port Tampa Bay.

It’s expected to start around 8:15 p.m. and last until about 1 a.m. Tuesday.

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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