You’re walking to class in the sunshine, basking in the glory of the unseasonal warmth that has blessed our campus these past few weeks. You feel a touch on your arm.
Could it be an attractive fellow student whose eye you’ve caught? A professor to commend you on your performance in class? Maybe somebody wanting your signature on a petition for that important enviro-political issue you feel so deeply about?
No. It’s not a person. It’s not even a warm touch. It’s the prickly presence of a nuclear mosquito, a member of the oversized, bloodthirsty, buzzing, scummy lagoon-spawning, itch-inducing tribe of bugs that that now apparently calls UCSB home. You swat the fucker, wiping a glaze of mosquito insides and some other poor sap’s blood across your arm. Grossed out? Nope. It’s the fifth flying fiend you’ve killed today. You’re used to it.
Thankfully, the university is presently taking steps to relieve its students from their status as snack food by upping its annual insecticide fund from about $15,000 to $87,455. This is good news for students because it indicates the administration has evaluated a potentially volatile situation and taken steps to solve it before it explodes like an overfull skeeter sucking on some poor coed’s artery. Furthermore, by more than quintupling their pay to the Santa Barbara Coastal Vector Control District, the university has shown its willingness to spend the money to keep its students safe from bugs that can carry malaria, viral encephalitis, dengue and yes, sometimes even the West Nile virus.
The most beneficial aspect of the university decision, however, is its contract to rid the plague in the making by using “biorational” methods. At first glance, a term like “biorational” seems like either a politically correct term for “mosquito genocide gas” or a namby-pamby, eco-fuzzy solution involving coddling the mosquitoes, paying to move them to a quiet corner of the suburbs and then holding a parade in their honor. It’s neither.
This ecologically sensitive mosquito form of mosquito obliteration is a species-specific, two-fold procedure. The first part is the compound (S)-Methoprene, or what Vector Control calls a “juvenile hormone mimic.” It instigates the insect’s metamorphosis from its larval stage, but like some kind of mosquito killjoy, it renders the adults unable to bite or breed. A microbiological agent constitutes the second part of the process. Exterminators release the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, a soil-borne organism found in conspicuously mosquito-free pools in the Israeli desert that destroys a mosquito’s stomach lining.
With a quintupled insecticide budget could have come a quintupled load of poison, so the university’s selection of a pest control method without harmful side effects is a welcome one. The combination of mosquito impotence formula and stomachache germs is far better antidote for UCSB’s arm-scratching blues than even the world’s largest tub of Cortaid, easily surpassing non-species specific, food chain-ruining, ecologically devastating pesticides like DDT.
Sure, there’s a few downsides to the skies of UCSB being less populated with these flying menaces. Swatting skeeters is a good way to pass the time in a dull lecture. The Nexus mosquito kill scoreboard has enlivened an otherwise lethargic newsroom. And with mosquitoes entering the house through holes in the window screen, one never really has to feel alone. But these luxuries are ones we can all quietly forgo in gratitude for an ecologically sound mass extermination, hopefully soon completed.
Daily Nexus county news co-editor Drew Mackie wishes we could pit Mother Nature against herself more often.