Deerfield takes lead in mosquito control with $35,000 state grant

  • A state map showing Mosquito Control District, created by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources. Recorder Staff—MDAR

  • An Aedes aegypti mosquito sits inside a glass tube at the Fiocruz institute where they have been screening for mosquitos naturally infected with the Zika virus in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, May 23, 2016. As opposed to artificially infected mosquito in labs, the institute found Aedes aegypti mosquitos that were naturally infected, confirming scientists suspicion that the Aedes aegypti is indeed a vector for Zika. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

For the Bulletin
Saturday, January 07, 2017

DEERFIELD — There hasn’t been serious action taken to control mosquito populations in western Massachusetts since the early 1980s — until now.

Deerfield is spearheading a regional partnership to “establish the Pioneer Valley Mosquito Control District” — the next step in an initiative to combat mosquito-borne illnesses.

To that end, Deerfield and a few other cities and towns in the region applied and have been awarded $35,310 in state money.

“We’re pretty excited about getting the Community Compact Grant from the governor to establish the Pioneer Valley Mosquito Control District,” said Selectboard Chairwoman Carolyn Shores Ness, “and Deerfield is lead on that.”

Currently, based on a Department of Agricultural Resources map, there are mosquito control districts set up in other parts of the state — with about eight districts stretching from Cape Cod to Central Mass. However, there aren’t any control districts in the Pioneer Valley, and just a few towns covered in Berkshire County.

A presentation created by town officials relates that mosquito control districts help prevent spread of diseases like West Nile, Dengue Fever and Zika.

“Little surveillance and testing has been done in our region in over 50 years … we have little recourse if an outbreak of mosquito-borne disease occurs,” one document included in the grant application notes.

The Department of Agricultural Resources outlines the importance of control districts in “early detection of disease threats to the public.”

A long-term goal

For years now, Shores Ness has been working to create a district in western Mass. The grant is the next step in that process, and will be used to hire a consultant to help create a district, and purchase insect traps to gather data on mosquito populations.

An application submitted by Deerfield for the grant includes “10 mosquito light traps,” costing $120 each, “10 CDC Gravid Traps at $95” each, and a “100-watt halogen magnifying glass” for $250, among other pieces of equipment totaling $35,310.

“We need to identify habitat, identify species and identify volume,” Shores Ness continued, noting the importance of “distinguishing between what’s a nuisance mosquito and what’s a disease mosquito. That’s hugely important because it’s a proactive climate change issue.”

Other Franklin County towns included in the initiative are Greenfield and Montague. Looking ahead, other towns could also join the initiative.

The mosquito funding is part of a $1 million statewide grant focused on efficiency and regionalization efforts in 72 municipalities and 10 school districts, according to the state.