If you hear the roaring engine of a low-flying S2RT aircraft in the wee morning hours Sunday, you're not under attack; the mosquitoes are.
Blaine Tucker of Mountain Air Spray Company plans to begin the spray campaign to kill adult mosquitoes Sunday morning, weather permitting. The adult spray sessions generally occur twice a year, once before the Fourth of July and then in August, said Bruce Johnson, pest control manager for Moffat County. Tucker will spray in the early morning and evening hours.
Tucker said he prefers to spray in the evening, because more mosquitoes are out then. Another reason to spray at dusk and dawn is to protect local bee populations, he said.
Permethrin, the active ingredient of the spray, will kill insects other than mosquitoes, even important pollinators such as honey bees. The synthetic poison is based on the naturally occurring chemical pyrethrin, which is derived from chrysanthemum flowers.
The ultimate goal of the spraying sessions, to eradicate mosquitoes completely, will never be achieved, Johnson said. But when they can make a major dent in the population, that's a success. Johnson said crews are testing for West Nile virus in local mosquitoes, but have not found any infected bugs.
The spray is applied as an ultra-low volume spray, 4 ounces per acre through a fine mist. Permethrin breaks down in the environment, especially in the presence of heat and sunlight, according to the Environmental Protection Agency's Web site. The chemical is not very toxic to humans or birds at such low concentrations, however it is toxic to fish and bees, according to the EPA. To protect fish, the EPA prohibits direct application of the spray to open water or within 100 feet of lakes or rivers.
Steve Smith, a beekeeper who sells honey locally, said the only way to completely protect his bees is to move them out to areas that aren't sprayed. He keeps his hives far from the roads where spraying generally happens.
"I haven't noticed a loss from Blaine. I think he tries hard not to get them," Smith said.
Johnson said that they also have crews out regularly targeting larvae in pools of standing water.
Individuals also can help reduce the mosquito problem by removing standing pools of water, building bat houses and installing propane mosquito traps, Johnson said.
He added that bug zappers work, but they also kill beneficial insects. The spraying session will occur throughout the county and is scheduled to continue through June 26.