St. Tammany Parish Mosquito Abatement (STPMAD) announced
today that it will begin using a helicopter as a new tool to combat mosquito
populations in St. Tammany Parish. With the month of May marking the start of
the West Nile virus season, this pilot program will begin the third week
of May with a 30-day evaluation period in the Tammany Hills neighborhood, an
area hard-hit by the virus in 2018. Mosquito Abatement’s team of field
biologists will be analyzing the effectiveness of this new tool to determine if
it should be a permanent part of mosquito management operations.
“St. Tammany Parish experienced a significant increase in West Nile virus activity last year. This led us to examine alternative methods to incorporate into our integrated mosquito management plan for the 2019 season,” said Dr. Kevin Caillouet, Director of St. Tammany Parish Mosquito Abatement, “Treating mosquitoes by helicopter has been successfully used by several counties in Florida for many years, and has been attributed to their ability to keep Zika virus under control in that region.”
One of the primary benefits of incorporating a helicopter into current operations is that it enables Mosquito Abatement to aerially distribute larvicide. Larvicides are the first line of defense in combating mosquito populations as they specifically target mosquito larvae, preventing them from ever becoming adults capable of biting humans and spreading disease. The larvicide product that Mosquito Abatement will be using is derived from a naturally occurring bacteria that targets mosquito larvae and has negligible impact on non-target species. These organic products are considered safe for humans, animals, beneficial insects, and are ideal for use in many aquatic environments as they do not affect freshwater fish or amphibians. Additionally, the products we are using are OMRI listed making it safe for organic gardening.
Currently the Mosquito Abatement team distributes larvicide into parish roadside ditches, but the helicopter will distribute larvicide into areas with standing water that the team cannot easily access like unmaintained swimming pools, small ponds, and water holding containers. The helicopter has the ability to fly low and slow over a designated area, enabling it to more effectively distribute the larvicide over challenging habitats including woodlands and marshes. Residents can expect it to be louder as the helicopter makes a few low passes near their homes, spraying a very fine mist over the area.
Additionally, the helicopter will be used in operations to kill biting adult mosquitoes, along with the ground spray trucks and Twin Otter fixed-wing aircraft. In areas where there is an increase in the primary vector for West Nile virus, the southern house mosquito, STPMAD will use the helicopter to provide targeted treatments in those areas with the greatest health threats. The airplane is an effective tool for covering large areas, however the speed and height at which it travels make it challenging to focus on a smaller area.
The helicopter services are contracted through Blackstar Helicopter of Picayune, Mississippi. Blackstar provides helicopter agriculture aerial application services and has operations across seven U.S. states. The helicopter pilot who will perform the work in St. Tammany, Mike Fisher, has extensive years of service as a mosquito control helicopter pilot in Minnesota. To learn more about their operations visit https://www.blackstarhelo.com/.
Residents should take precautions to minimize exposure to biting mosquitoes by wearing mosquito repellent approved by EPA/CDC, avoid peak mosquito biting times of one hour before and after sunrise and sunset, and wearing long sleeve shirts and pants. For additional Information please contact St. Tammany Parish Mosquito Abatement offices at 985-643-5050 or visit our website at www.stpmad.org.