Last night’s rain can bring the mosquitoes

Phil Goodman, Florida Keys Mosquito Control District 2 Commissioner, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s been going on with the mosquitoes.

The Keys saw quite a storm last night.

Goodman said, “Rain is the real wildcard in mosquito control every year. This past winter, we had a lot of rain and so our assets were constantly being used in the air and the trucks all winter long, but we did get all of our scheduled maintenance done this winter. The last couple of weeks have been a little bit dry. Right now the mosquito counts are very low all over the Keys, so typical for this time a year. Last night’s rain, I’m sure this will increase the activity a little bit. But most forecasters are saying that this summer, we will have more rain than usual. So more rain in the spring and summer months will mean more mosquitoes, but we’re prepared. We are ready to go whenever the season starts. We’ll start seeing it ramp up now until it gets into May where it’ll be pretty much full blown mosquito control season. We’re ready for it.”

An increase in mosquitos brings an increase in potential mosquito born diseases.

Goodman said, “This past year, we had 30 counties in Florida, that had mosquito borne diseases, local transmission. This is the most in decades, I think. Fortunately, we were not one here in Monroe County. I think our proactive, robust control of mosquitoes is really paying off for us. Miami Dade continues to have dengue fever outbreak. Last year, they had the largest dengue fever outbreak recorded in over 75 years in the whole country. So it’s a real situation for them, they’re working hard to try to get this under control. But as a result, we’re staying on high alert here, and we’re working hard to keep those diseases out of the Florida Keys.”

That’s one of the reasons the Oxitec trials took place in the Keys.

Goodman said, “We’ve run these trials for the last three years with Oxitec and had good results. This year the EPA is going over all of those three years data and sometime probably later this year, or next year, they will make a decision to certify this for commercial use. That’s what we’re hoping. We’re continuing to work this year with that. We won’t be releasing any Oxitec mosquitoes. We’re taking this year to really work on operations for how we would actually deploy these, working on how to harden these boxes because we have a lot of wind and potential storms here, how we would do the releases. So a lot of operational things that we’re working on this year with Oxitec. So if this is approved this year, next year, we’ll certainly be ready to take that up. Because this is something we need. We’re doing a good job controlling mosquitoes right now for these mosquito borne diseases. But, three or four or five, seven days of wind and rain when we can’t treat, this is where the Oxitec product will come in, because those mosquitoes are working 24/7 to keep us safe. We are on high alert, and we’re doing everything we can to keep this community safe.”

The trials for Oxitec were excellent.

Goodman said, “They were relatively small when you look at the percentage of Florida Keys where these trials were was relatively small. We’re very encouraged by the results. We hope that the EPA will find the same and we believe they will. There’s a lot of operational issues too, as far as deployment of these that we have to work out. So that’s what we’ll be working on this year.”

What does a board chair for the Mosquito Control District do?

Goodman said, “The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District was established by the Florida Legislature in 1949. Enabling legislation calls for five commissioners, each to be elected for a four year term, each living in a certain district, but elected county wide. The same as the county commission. We’re in the same districts and elected just like the county commission are and I can tell you that our board is very engaged. We have, I think a very professional board there. We have a banker, we have a medical doctor on our board, we have an IT professional, we have a CPA, my background, I’m a chemist, and I spent my entire career in the private sector in the chemical industry. So everyone comes from a background that is very important, a very high level expertise from each one in an area that’s very important to mosquito control. We have total oversight of the mosquito control operations. We hired the director, the director then hires the team, and we’re very fortunate to have an excellent director who is done a terrific job and hired a terrific team there. We work very hard very closely together. Everyone’s very concerned. We run as partisan. We are elected as Democrat, Republican, Independent, un-party affiliate. But you know, mosquitoes bite, Republicans and Democrats and Independents, all the same. So our board works very hard to keep the politics out of mosquito control. We know what our main focus is, and that’s to control mosquitoes and we work very hard to keep the main focus the main focus, and I think we’ve been pretty successful with that.”

The board met last Tuesday.

Goodman said, “We meet each month, at least once a month, and usually a very full agenda when we have our meetings on the third Tuesday each month, typically. We had four meetings last week, two of them were committee meetings that are very important to the operation of mosquito control. Then we had a workshop and we had a regular meeting. They all were very full agendas. One of the most unique things was in our workshop, we usually have a workshop every month, something very informative for our board or what’s going on. This one, we focused on the 75th anniversary of Florida Keys Mosquito Control District. I mentioned earlier that in 1949, the legislature approved the establishment of Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, so this year is our 75th anniversary and what we talked about in this workshop are plans that we want to make to highlight this in the community this year. Longer time residents certainly understand the operations of mosquito control, but we have a lot of new residents now with things that have changed in the last few years and certainly a lot of new tourists. We want to educate them on what mosquito control is doing. Sometimes when these people see our helicopters or our trucks, they wonder what we’re doing because very few places in the country have the same type of mosquito control that we have here in the tropical Florida Keys. So we want to raise the awareness of what we’re doing. We’re going to be having open house, a lot of different things to celebrate our 75 years of protecting the Florida Keys. We’ve always been a kind of a behind the scenes operation here, but now we think we have a great story to tell, and we’re looking forward to detail it. Basically that story is the transition from DDT to BTi. That’s really the history here. Because when we were established, DDT was being used by the Navy. Key West had a small mosquito control, we came in and took over and then it’s been a steady transition of different types of products, different types of mosquito control. Until today, where we have BTi, which is a naturally occurring bacteria, it’s about 90% of what we use, very non toxic, only kills mosquito larvae. We’ve transitioned from broad spectrum pesticide use to this very non toxic larvicide. So it’s a really good story to tell and we’re looking forward to telling it this year.”

The Mosquito Control District is always looking to move forward with the process.

Goodman said, “We are rated one of the top mosquito control in the state and in the nation and in the world. We work hard to really keep innovating, keep the latest innovations in mosquito control numbers of mosquitoes to the lowest possible, and we worked very hard at it. But our community demands the best mosquito control here. Living in the tropics we have a lot of challenges here in mosquito control in the Florida Keys. We’re surrounded by marine sanctuary, we’re living right beside the Everglades, we have the only living coral reef in North America, we have over 40 endangered species, including the Key deer here. We’re an area of state critical concern. So, to control mosquitoes here and to protect the environment, you better know what you’re doing. We’re not perfect, but I think we’re very good and we’re working hard to continuously improve everyday.”

The helicopters and trucks from the Mosquito Control District are very important.

Goodman said, “Whenever you see our helicopters and our trucks, just remember that one mosquito can have offspring of over 1 billion mosquitoes in the Florida Keys in one season. So when you see our helicopters and trucks, know that they are really preventing over billions of mosquitoes from ever leaving here, ever seeing them, which helps make our paradise here more livable.”