The Mosquito Control Board is hard at work keeping the mosquitoes at bay

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 final budget hearing was held yesterday.

Goodman said, “We passed our budget. It hadn’t really changed much in the last couple of weeks. We have a an ad valorem tax increase of about 6.5 percent over last year, and which is about $1.1 million. We’re about 5 percent of the total taxes levied for the whole county. This is about a $15 million operating budget for us, which is about a three and a half percent increase over last year in operating expenses. If you look back over the last 12 years, our average increase has been between two and a half and three and a half. So we’re facing the same cost everybody else has, but I think we’ve been able to manage it pretty well. We’re about 5 percent below last year’s rollback millage rate. So I think operating costs, we handled very well. The $1.1 million increase, $1 million of that is going to build reserves for a fourth helicopter. We came up about six years ago with an eight-year plan to replace our aging fleet. We’ll get our third helicopter next month. So now we’re building reserves for a fourth one that we hope to have in another three years or so. So the budget is finished. I think we still offer a good value for mosquito control for the taxpaying citizens of this county.”

How are the Florida Keys bearing out with respect to mosquito borne diseases?

Goodman said, “We have a very proactive, preventive mosquito control here in the Florida Keys. We have no local transmission of any mosquito borne diseases in the Florida Keys, nor have we. We’ve only had one time in the last 10 years and that was in 2020, when we did have an outbreak of Dengue fever in the Upper Keys, which lasted about three months and we were able to squelch that, but Miami Dade they’ve had, I think almost every year for the last 10 years, they’ve had Dengue fever outbreaks. The last several years have been primarily due to really increases in travel related cases coming in from to Florida from a number of countries, mostly Cuba, though, and most of it goes into Miami Dade. It’s also spread into Broward. So those two still have the mosquito borne disease illness alerts from the Department of Health. We’re on high alert here to keep this out. So far, we’ve been very successful at it.”

In other parts of Florida, the Eastern Equine Encephalitis, and West Nile virus is still present.

Goodman said, “So everybody in Florida in mosquito control is on high alert right now, because we’re kind of in the peak of the season for that. It’ll be going down soon, but it’ll be here for us through November. So we’re still on high alert, but so far, we’ve been able to keep these diseases out of the Florida Keys.”

The Oxitec project has helped keeping diseases out of the Keys.

Goodman said, “We’ve been in the third year of trials this year in the Middle Keys, since April and will continue on this, barring any storms, certainly into October, maybe November, depending on how the mosquito season goes this year. But so far, everything’s been very good. Participation, support from the community. Again, no cost to the taxpayers of this county. The results have been very good. The mosquito numbers are way down for aedes aegypti in those trial areas. Everything is just going like clockwork, as it has the last two years. So we are working with Oxitec now discussing what we can do next year, because we think it’ll be 2025 before the EPA will allow commercialization of this process. It’ll take them over a year to go through all the data that they received from the Florida Keys. So until then, we want to continue with trials of some types because whenever this is commercialized, we want to be able to start right away and have a plan in place with all the details of how we want to start implementation of this in the Florida Keys. We’ll probably go slowly and going into various hotspots, but we certainly will have a plan.”

Some residents and visitors have spoken to the Mosquito Control District about their concerns recently.

Goodman said, “Mosquito control here in the Florida Keys is quite different from most of the rest of Florida and certainly the rest of the country. We live in a tropical climate and these are tropical mosquitoes and tropical diseases that we’re trying to control. One of the concerns that we’ve heard a lot this year, not a lot but mainly from new residents and visitors to the Florida Keys that our helicopters are flying low, can we fly higher? And the answer is really no, because we have a lot of regulations that we have to comply with for these various chemicals that we that we use and depending on the density or the weight of them and how they are dispersed, we have to fly pretty low. Also, when we’re flying low, we have a very narrow target to hit. So we can’t fly really high to do that. So with our larvicides we can fly 75 to 100 feet, that’s really what we’re with our powdered larvicide and with the liquid larvicide about 100 to 150 feet. It’s very regulated and we have to obey the laws of physics also because trying to hit the small targets with the wind blowing, there’s a lot of calculations that go into this. When we’re spraying these really small areas we have to be precise there, because we want to hit the target and not anywhere else. Our pilots are very experienced and we have a very good safety record. Our helicopters are very well maintained.”

Some areas of the Keys seem to have better results from the mosquito control treatments.

Goodman said, “In the Florida Keys, we have areas where we can treat airily with larvicide and that takes care of probably 80 to 90 percent of the mosquitoes in some areas. Then we use truck spraying, to kind of top that off as needed. In many parts of the Keys, that’s the way it works. That’s ideal. But we have a lot of federally and state controlled lands in the Florida Keys. These are highly regulated, each one is regulated differently. We work with the regulatory authorities in there to try to spray everything that they will allow. Some areas will allow us to spray larvicide, some we can’t. Because some of these, they want to keep them a natural area. So what happens when people live near these, this makes mosquito control a little bit difficult. We’re all about spraying the source, trying to eliminate mosquitoes from the source. When we’re not allowed to spray the source, this makes it a little bit more difficult. We can usually try to find a way with a lot of different techniques to really give good control even in those areas. But there are certain areas where the houses are right up against federal lands where we cannot control the source, so we’re having to send trucks pretty regularly into those areas to kill the mosquitoes in the neighborhoods. But sometimes they’re back the next day, because we cannot treat the source. We try to work with the people in those neighborhoods, and do the best we can, but there’s certain limitations there. So some areas have the Keys even though we try as hard as we can, it’s just a natural thing that some of the areas get better results than others.”

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