Road warriors’ mission to stop mosquitos

As summer heats up, so does mosquito activity and the risk for infection. Keeping standing water out of your yard can help reduce the mosquito population. And now we team up with a crew going underground to stop mosquitos before they hatch.

The mission begins in a forest preserve parking lot in suburban Deerfield. Helmets on, bikes stocked with mosquito-killing ammo unloaded … and they are off. Their target? Storm drains.

George Balis, regional manager, Clarke: “One of the most prolific areas for West Nile Virus or carriers of West Nile are found in storm drains or catch basins. It’s kind of the unknown and it was one of the big factors of West Nile emergence, particularly in the northern sections where you have thousands and thousands of basins.”

I tag along to see George Balis – a regional manager with mosquito control company Clarke – and his team in action.

A leisurely ride with a serious purpose that once took place in a gas-guzzling truck.

George Balis: “We used to use larger trucks, right-hand drive vehicles and we would go out and treat storm drains along the road. We’d get between two and four miles per gallon in those vehicles. We’re 25% more efficient utilizing a bicycle than utilizing a truck.”

And like their delivery system, the product they use to kill mosquito larva is green, too.

George Balis: “It’s OMRI listed – organic material review institute listed – so this product can be put into the water, it kills mosquitos as they develop and it doesn’t affect the other wildlife that’s in there. It wouldn’t affect people, pets or other parts of the environment.”

After a cool and rainy July, temperatures are heating up in august. That means West Nile carrying mosquitos are on the rise.

George Balis: “As all that rain came down it leaves a lot of pocketed water areas, and those pocketed water areas start to breed the type of mosquito we’d see carrying West Nile Virus.”

but when George and his team ride into town, the numbers drop.

George Balis: “In this area here, Deerfield, we have had zero human cases of West Nile Virus since the emergence in 1999. We work with over 150 communities in treating their storm drains. Each person that is out usually treats about 600 basins in a day.”

A computer system on the bike tracks each drop.

George Balis: “That computer system verifies where he’s at, when the applications were made, where the applications were made.

The pellets are effective – but don’t replace or eliminate spraying. They’re part of a broader defense system.

George Balis: “This ongoing, heavy pressure on the larval control area along with timely adult mosquito control applications can reduce your risk heavily.”

Also look up, your gutters may contain standing water and attending to them can help keep your property mosquito free.

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