Every war has its price. In UCSB’s war on mosquitoes, the price is almost 90 grand.
Amid rising concerns over West Nile Virus, the university and the Santa Barbara Coastal Vector Control District are stepping up their mosquito extermination efforts. In negotiations last week, the university agreed to provide Vector Control with funding of up to $87,455 per year, up from only about $15,000 per year in the past. Vector Control District Manager Mitch Bernstein said that the most notable effect on the mosquito population will come when the agreement is renewed next year and Vector Control can battle the pests throughout their life cycle.
Vector Control officials began work in September 2001 developing a proposal for increased control efforts. They believed that the university, which is required by health and safety codes to provide sufficient resources for mosquito control, was not doing so.
“Our efforts are going to have to be beefed up to get this area under control,” Bernstein said earlier last week.
Bernstein believes the new agreement provides the beefing up he was seeking.
“This is the first step in a long-term solution,” he said.
The agreement provides Vector Control with funding for increased material and labor costs to fight the local mosquito population, which thrives in the wet areas in and around campus.
“It ‘s going to be a major effort for the district just because of the immensity of the breeding that goes on around here with the salt marsh areas, the wetland and the lagoon,” Bernstein said.
Vector Control will mainly use non-chemical, “biorational” methods of mosquito control. The compounds prematurely trigger the mosquito’s metamorphosis from the larval stage, leaving it unable to bite or reproduce. Since the insects are not killed, they remain available for consumption as part of the food chain.
The university has been reviewing Vector Control’s plan since receiving it last October, ensuring that it was environmentally safe and complied with California state guidelines for mosquito control.
“Some of these areas are natural reserve areas, so we wanted to make sure that the materials are ecologically sound,” Larry Parsons of UCSB Environmental Health and Safety said.
Parsons said Vector Control’s new plan represents a “ramping up” of past efforts, with increased use of long-term agents.
Santa Barbara is home to several species of mosquitoes that can carry West Nile Virus, including the Culex, traditionally considered the primary carrier of West Nile. The virus arrived in the eastern United States in the summer of 1999, possibly earlier. Infected persons display mild flu-like symptoms, if any, and on rare occasions infection can result in serious illness or death. Only one case of human West Nile infection has been reported in California, and it was not fatal.
“We have always had continuous control efforts, but because of West Nile we’re taking everything more seriously,” Parsons said.
Officials will meet next Friday to finalize the one-year agreement. Both parties have the intention of renewing it every year, Bernstein said.
The yearlong control program will begin every November around the first rains of the season to deal with floodwater mosquitoes, which are capable of carrying West Nile Virus.