County Begins Mosquito Spraying This Week

For the first time in 2018, the Suffolk County Department of Public Works' Division of Vector Control is applying larvicide to multiple salt marshes in the Towns of East Hampton and Southampton to control mosquitoes. The vector control division applies methoprene and Bti, both larvicides, via helicopter flying at low altitude.

The county has scheduled aerial application on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m., at Napeague and Beach Hampton in Amagansett and Accabonac Harbor in Springs. In the Town of Southampton, Apacuck Point, Moneybogue Bay, Westhampton Dunes, Dune Road, Meadow Lane, North Haven, and North Sea are to be treated.

Aerial application is also to occur in the Towns of Riverhead, Southold, Brookhaven, Smithtown, Islip, and Babylon.

Should weather conditions prevent completion of the action, it will be continued on the next suitable day.

According to county officials, no precautions are recommended to prepare for the spraying as the helicopter flies at a very low altitude over marsh areas and takes other precautions to control drift into inhabited areas.

Mosquitoes can carry West Nile virus, eastern equine encephalitis, and other diseases. Although methoprene is registered by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the State Department of Environmental Conservation and is applied in accordance with required state and federal permits, its use is controversial on the South Fork. The East Hampton Town Trustees, along with environmental activists and some residents, have agitated for a ban on the larvicide, which they argue is harmful to nontarget species including lobsters, crabs, and fish.

Though county officials have long dismissed that claim and the Legislature has historically approved methoprene's use to control mosquitoes, they have agreed to a pilot program under which the trustees will conduct weekly samples for mosquito larvae in multiple areas of Accabonac Harbor.

Francis Bock, the trustees' clerk, said on Tuesday that sampling will begin on June 11 and continue weekly until the middle of August. Two trustees, Susan McGraw Keber and John Aldred, and three volunteers will conduct the sampling, sending data to the vector control division every Monday morning "in order for them to fine-tune their spray protocols to minimize, if possible, their use of methoprene that particular week," Mr. Bock said. The vector control division will also test on a regular basis.

The trial program follows years of growing opposition on the South Fork to the large-scale use of chemicals, which ultimately prompted a meeting between county officials including Tom Iwanejko, the director of vector control, Legislator Bridget Fleming, and the trustees. As a result, the vector control division warmed to the idea of a trial program aimed at reducing methoprene's use.

At the urging of commercial fishermen, Connecticut prohibited the use of methoprene in coastal areas in 2013. Fishermen and environmentalists in New York have long advocated a ban, and the town board has repeatedly voiced its opposition to methoprene to the county.

The vector control division can be called at 631-852-4270 for future notices and additional information.