Every year when the weather turns warm, swarms of the deadliest creature in the world besiege the Five Towns. According to the World Health Organization, mosquito bites cause the deaths of 1 million people worldwide every year, because of the numerous diseases carried by the insect.
Long Island’s South Shore serves as an ideal breeding ground for not only these bloodsuckers, but also other species of flying pests. “One female mosquito can lay 1,000 eggs in a season in any standing water, as shallow as an inch deep,” Richard Gordon, owner of Mosquito Seekers, a Lawrence-based pest exterminating company, said at the April 17 meeting of the Lawrence Association.
Gordon explained that mosquitoes typically stay close to their nests, so it’s important to keep your property free of standing water. “Tip over garbage can covers after it rains,” he advised. “Tires, flower pots, birdbaths, rain gutters that are clogged up will all breed tons of mosquitoes.”
Other pests — like horse flies, which have a more painful bite — breed in the mud and swampy areas, and are more difficult to eliminate. That’s because “Back Lawrence is more swamp than residential,” Gordon said.
Ed Gottlieb, a resident of Back Lawrence, won two free treatments from Mosquito Seekers in a raffle at the meeting. “Anyone who lives on the South Shore is subject to black flies, no-see-ums, green flies, mosquitoes,” he said. “Dealing with these pests is part of living by the water.”
Gottlieb added that he would prefer an organic solution to reduce flying bugs rather than a synthetic pesticide. Organic sprays are oils, often garlic or cedar, and normally last two weeks. Many synthetic pesticides are time-released, and commonly last three weeks, but have more adverse effects on the environment.
“The bottom line is, just like when you use a fertilizer, you’ll be putting down something that is polluting the earth,” Gordon said. “We have a big problem with that on Long Island … If you can use something organic, it’s better.”
Mike Deutsch, the entomologist for Lynbrook-based Arrow Exterminating, also said that organic pesticides are much better for the environment. “They don’t have residual power,” he explained. “They’ll kill mosquitoes if they’re there, but they degrade quicker. Pesticides get in the food chain and accumulate in the bodies in larger animals. They keep building up in the body tissues and ultimately cause all kinds difficulties for the predators.”
Nassau County treats standing water with a larvicide, to kill the larva, the juvenile stage of an insect’s life, between an egg and adult mosquito. If county tests find West Nile virus or another disease more than once, it might spray for adult mosquitoes. “We don’t want to just spray if there’s no reason,” said Mary Ellen Laurain, county Health Department spokeswoman. “There needs to be a presence of disease — not just because there’s an abundance of [mosquitoes] and they’re a nuisance.” All spraying in Atlantic Beach, Cedarhurst, Hewlett, Inwood and Woodmere is done by the county.
The Village of Lawrence, while unable to spray pesticides across its protected wetlands, still works to combat winged pests. According to Village Administrator Ron Goldman, it contracts with Mosquito Seekers to treat 13 locations to form a border around the breeding grounds. “While [Gordon] sprays, the village repaired the 90 boxes around Lawrence,” Goldman said, referring to the four-by-three-foot black fly traps that were installed across Back Lawrence in 2012.
Residents can also get traps from the village. Goldman advises that it’s best to keep them outside, because they have a strong smell. The village is introducing, triploid grass carp, a sterile species of fish that eats mosquito larvae, into water , such as Sage Pond.
Gordon and Deutsch agreed that while their services can eliminate infestations, the best way to stay bite-free this summer is to eliminate breeding grounds by preventing the pests from making your yard their home. “If we treat one yard, nothing’s going to stop them from flying over from somewhere untreated,” Deutsch said. “Mosquito control has to be a communitywide effort.”
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