Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Mosquito Spraying In Brandon Worries Some Residents

In Brandon and surrounding towns mosquitos are a way of life in the summer.  Entomologists say an ancient lakebed has made the area especially attractive to the biting bugs and heavy rains this summer have made the problem worse.  West Nile virus was found in mosquitos in Leicester earlier this summer and last week state health officials announced they’d found Eastern Equine Encephalitis in a mosquito pool in the town of Whiting. 

The local mosquito control district is the only one in the state that regularly sprays pesticides to control the mosquito population.  It’s a policy that townspeople have endorsed for years.  But a number of local residents, including Lesley Wright, say it’s time to rethink that.

Wright and her husband own an organic farm in Leicester. “It’s a no spray zone,” says Wright, “but we think we’re going to have to extend the buffers because after they spray we can smell it wafting in our windows.”

Wright says she’s especially troubled by how close the pesticide trucks come to nearby Fern Lake. “Our concern is if you stand down at the fishing access on Fern Lake when they’re spraying and you watch the truck lights and hear the spray going up and down these driveways - all around this little lake you can see the pressure on the lake.” 

Gary Meffe, an ecologist and conservation biologist understands their concerns.  But Meffe, who’s Chairman of the Brandon-Leicester-Sudbury-Goshen Insect Control District, says they are especially careful about applying pesticides near water. “All of our sprayers are taught to avoid water ways - stay at least 150 feet away and again those are no spray zones.  Is it possible that spray occasionally drifts further than 150 feet?  Yes,” says Meffe, “I suppose that’s possible, but we make every effort to avoid those areas.”

Meffe says they control mosquitos two ways - by applying larvicide to kill mosquito larvae and by spraying pesticides from trucks to kill adult mosquitos.

Unlike chemical pesticides, Meffe says larvicides use naturally occurring bacteria. But because they’re typically dispersed by plane or helicopter - the state funded larvicide program is expensive. 

Meffe says this year they’ve treated more than 17-hundred acres at a cost of nearly 40-thousand dollars. “The limitation on larvicide treatment is that we need to go out and survey larvae throughout our district, find out where there are high concentrations of them and then treat them.  There’s no point in treating them if there’s just a few here and there,” says Meffe.  

In the last few weeks, he says they’ve found very few larvae in the usual flood planes and fields - yet reports of mosquitos have increased.  “So,” Meffe Says, “we think that a lot of the adult mosquitos are coming from small temporary water bodies from throughout our district - from woodland pools, roadside ditches and backyard containers that we can’t possibly treat.” 

Which he says is why they still need to go after adult mosquitos with pesticides. 

But the frequent spraying worries Brandon resident Karen Emerson. “When they sprayed the other night,” says Emerson, “we had no warnings and all of a sudden I was running around the house shutting windows as they were spraying. It was 10:30 at night. If they spray in the middle of the night we won’t hear it and it will come in and we’ll be breathing it in our sleep because it does come in.” Emerson and others have called for better warnings. 

But Gary Meffe says it’s not that easy. “Treating adult mosquitos is as much an art as a science. And I wish there was a more precise way to define where we spray,” says Meffe, “but in fact we often use the public to tell us where the big problems are and we go after those areas first.”

And he says this year those who want to be sprayed far outnumber those who don’t.  He says he’s also gotten a number of calls from people outside the local mosquito district who want to know how their towns can join.  

Back in Leicester, organic vegetable farmer Caitlin Gildrien hands her two-year-old daughter a carrot.  “As a mom, I don’t feel great about people driving around spraying things that kill things - and little kids have lowered immune systems and I don’t want her to get West Nile virus either - so then you’re back to like. . . what’s the balance?”

It’s an ambivalence many local residents admit they struggle with.

One in five Vermonters is considered elderly. But what does being elderly even mean — and what do Vermonters need to know as they age? I’m looking into how aging in Vermont impacts living essentials such as jobs, health care and housing. And also how aging impacts the stuff of life: marriage, loss, dating and sex.
Latest Stories