County Sprays For Mosquitos; Others Concerned About Bees

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RENO, NV - Earlier this week, Washoe County health officials found a female mosquito carrying the West Nile Virus in Spanish Springs.

The fogging truck is the department's last line of defense against adult mosquitoes and early Thursday morning they were out spraying pesticide in the Kiley Ranch area of Spanish Springs.

"The purpose is to knock them down so that they won't emerge in other areas," says Jim Shaffer, manager of the county's Vector Borne Disease Program. "And two, they won't go ahead and deposit their eggs and start their life cycle again."

Fogging is not Shaffer's preferred weapon in this battle.

He'd much rather kill them in the larval stage, treating the water where they breed by air. The county used to do this a dozen or so times a year; budget cutbacks reduced that to five.

"The gaps in between control measures are too widely spread," says Shaffer. "Adults emerge and when they emerge, we have to do some fogging."

Rainy weather and warm temperatures have only made things worse.
And when West Nile shows up there's an added urgency. At least that's what county health officials believe.

"It's our job to keep it out of the human population."

Not everyone agrees. "I'd understand if it were the Ebola virus and everyone in the county was going to die," says Sandy Rowley.

In her view, it's something much less dangerous and the treatment is worse than the disease.

"It's overkill. It's overuse of a deadly chemical that's proven deadly to all pollinators even children and the elderly. It's horrible."

Rowley is leading a campaign to save bees.

She's not alone in her concern. Bees are essential to many crops. Their disappearance is becoming a world-wide concern. And the pesticide the county is using--pyrethrum--will kill them. She says there are alternative, less dangerous methods the county should be using.

Shaffer says pyrethrum is a standard treatment. He says Thursday morning's fogging was nowhere near any known hives, but he says the county wants to avoid creating any problems.

"If beekeepers want to be on a list they can notify us. We'll call them in advance and we'll let them know we're out there fogging and we'll create a buffer so we'll say away from their hives. We don't want to kill the bees either."

And, he says, the county doesn't want to put any people at risk, either. Anyone sensitive to the pesticide can call and be put on a no-spray list.

Rowley says that only proves her point. "West Nile Virus isn't some huge scary thing because if it was the county could just say 'Sorry'."