Jackson County Vector Control's efforts to take down pesky mosquitoes now requires a few more steps before the agency can spray and kill the bugs.
Vector Control manager and biologist Jim Lunders says the agency is now required to verify the types of mosquitoes, then use that information to find likely areas where larvae are developing. Lunders says dozens of mosquito species live in the Rogue Valley, and their larvae develop in different environments.
"You can't just go spray for adult mosquitoes anymore," Lunders says. "We need to be going out and finding these larval sources and controlling the mosquitoes there first."
With the new process, Vector Control technicians can spray populations at their source, map them, and hopefully eliminate the problem altogether, he says. It's a more meticulous process, but Lunders says it should also be more efficient in the long run.
Jackson County Vector Control District was formed in 1968 as a public agency to deal with mosquito and fly populations. The agency operates under state authority but has its own board of trustees appointed by the county Board of Commissioners, along with a budget funded in part by property taxes.
Lunders says the shift in approach comes from recent changes in the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit program, created by the Environmental Protection Agency and typically issued through a state's environmental quality department as a way to control water pollution. Under the new guidelines, vector control agencies must follow integrated pest management standards, which include first identifying the pest problem, evaluation of the appropriate options, then determining the best use of pesticides.
Spraying adult mosquitoes is a "secondary" control method, except under epidemic conditions, the website states. Vector Control received about 3,000 calls for service last year, with many from the same callers dealing with adult populations that just kept coming back, Lunders says.
"We were transitioning this way anyway," he says. "It's just a better way to do what we do."
Vector Control's website details several "surveillance techniques" technicians can use to verify the mosquito problem's severity before spraying. They include tracking the larval habitat — using traps, landing rates and adult mosquitoes collected by property owners — and treating if necessary. Lunders says the agency tries to do everything within about two days but it can take up to a week.
"Once we know all the larval sources have been controlled in that area ... then we'll do adult mosquito application," Lunders says. “We’re trying to fix the problem rather than just put a Band-Aid”
Spraying for adults will sometimes last only a short time, says the Vector Control website, www.jcvcd.org, as they can easily repopulate and require multiple treatments.
"Long-term control of the mosquito problem can only be achieved by controlling the larvae at the source," the site reads.
Some Medford residents aren't thrilled about the new changes. Sandy Abell, who lives near Hoover Elementary School, says technicians used to be johnny-on-the-spot with spraying in their area in years past. She's concerned that waiting for the evaluation process will mean more mosquitoes in the neighborhood.
“I realize it’s not their fault, it’s mandated from somewhere on high,” Abell says. “(But) I’m not excited about the prospect of waiting to the middle of summer when we’re inundated. It just seems counter-productive.”
In the midst of the changes, Vector Control officials say the public can help reduce mosquito populations, too. Standing water such as flooded fields, watering troughs, birdbaths, wading pools, clogged gutters and old tires should be eliminated, as they can yield new mosquito populations in seven days.
For protection from bites, outdoor enthusiasts should wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Mosquito repellents containing DEET, picardin or lemon or eucalyptus oils are most effective in keeping the bloodsuckers away.