Milford looks to take bite out of mosquito population

MILFORD — With warmer finally here, so, too, is mosquito season.

Answering the call in this fight is the Milford Health Department, which is kicking off its 2022 mosquito control program this week.

“Spring is upon us, and we want to make sure everyone knows what they can do to minimize mosquito bites,” said Mayor Ben Blake. “Citywide mosquito control activities combined with taking appropriate personal prevention measures is the best way to protect from mosquitoes.”

The program’s primary focus is on preventative efforts through mosquito breeding site reduction, especially in densely populated areas, and education about personal protection, according to Milford Health Director Deepa Joseph.

“This has been in place for many years,” said Joseph. “It happens every year and typically runs from April through October, November.”

She added the Health Department partners with several agencies to monitor the mosquito population.

“All Habitat (a Branford-based ecological management firm) is out working April through October,” said Joseph. “Residents who see individuals out there with a backpack on, and applying larvicide, those are the people who are contracting with the City of Milford to do this work. We also partner with DEEP as well as Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, who work to monitor mosquito activity throughout our community and the state.”

John Shepard, assistant scientist at Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, said the station is responsible for mosquito trapping and testing throughout the state, The group has 108 trapping stations and monitors them for viruses such as West Nile virus and eastern equine encephalitis.

“The challenge for West Nile virus is we know West Nile virus is likely to occur in the state at some point. Typically we will identify mosquitoes positive with West Nile virus either in late June or early July,” he said. “One of the things you want to do as citizens is use a repellent if you’re going to be out during dawn or dusk hours in areas where there are high mosquito activities. You want to use EPA-regulated and approved repellent containing DEET, Picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus, which are ingredients that have been known to repel mosquito for several hours.”

The program monitors the wetlands habitats in Milford and treats the marshy areas, as well as the catch basins throughout the city.

“In order to decrease the incidence of human transmission of West Nile virus, eastern equine encephalitis and associated diseases, the interaction between mosquitoes and humans should be minimized,” Joseph said.

Roger Wolfe, DEEP mosquito coordinator, said there could be as many as 2,000 mosquitoes in the traps, and many of those end up being the same species of mosquito.

“We actually have 54 different species of mosquito in the state alone,” he said. “Not all of them are mammal biters, some of them are specific in what they feed on. Some of them feed strictly on birds, and amphibians. Some of these species don’t care what they bite, they’ll bite a bird and then turn around and bite a person.”

Over the years, Joseph said there have been cases of WNV in the city, but programs like these help the health department be proactive instead of reactive, she said.

Joseph said, to further decrease the interaction between humans and mosquitoes, the health department has taken a multi-pronged approach.

“One being from the city perspective focusing on those areas within Milford that may be more prone to have mosquito breeding sites,” she said. “Also, we use this time of the year to remind residents of what they can do from a personal protection standpoint either on their properties or themselves.”

Milford Health Department advises residents to drain or dump any standing water mosquitoes can use to breed in, dress in light-colored, loose-fitting clothing or, when practical, wear long sleeves and pants and defend against mosquito bites by using mosquito repellent.