Bill Basil wants to know why the city isn’t doing more about mosquito control in Sonora.

Basil, one of about 30 people living in a local apartment complex, came before the City of Sonora Council Monday, June 17, during the regular meeting on behalf of himself and other residents to ask questions and voice concerns over what appears to be a lack of effort by the city to “spray for mosquitoes” on the property where he resides.

“My question is what’s going on?” Basil said. “You can’t drive through and go squirt, squirt and kill the mosquitoes where people live? Everybody’s talking about what’s going on with this you know. They’re taking money out on the water bill. So, when is the mosquito spraying? You’re taking money from everybody in town and not doing nothing and nobody knows when you’re out spraying or whatever.”

Mosquitoes are both a nuisance and a health concern as their bites may spread diseases to people and their pets alike.

Since last September Sutton County has received abundant rainfall contributing to the problem of mosquitoes.

In response, Mayor Wanda Shurley said the city is working on mosquito abatement.

However, city employees cannot go onto private property to spray for mosquitoes or use other methods to help eliminate the biting insects, she asserted. In agreement, Council Member Juanita Gomez further emphasizing the limitations of the city regarding private property.

After hearing both sides of the matter, City Manager Art Fuentes said there needs to be team effort between residents and the City of Sonora Mosquito Control program to effectively control the nuisance of mosquitoes locally.

“You’re right. We are taking that dollar surcharge and we’re hoping that when mosquito season is over we’re going to lift that dollar surcharge, but under that surcharge we buy our chemical supplies,” Fuentes said.

The surcharge reflected on resident’s city water bills also helps offset the cost of city employee education, certification and licensing to use vector control methods such as “fogging” to eliminate the local mosquito population, Fuentes added.

Fogging usually consists of spraying or “fogging” areas in town from the back of a truck. The city has one truck that it uses for fogging. The maintenance of the truck is also an expense to the city.

Presently, the City of Sonora has one technician, Don Barker, Waste Water Management Superintendent, who is licensed to oversee the Mosquito Control Program and dispense the chemicals from the truck, according to Fuentes. Barker follows a weekly schedule of fogging throughout areas of town.

He also said city employees cannot go onto private property be that of a free-standing homestead or an apartment facility to for the purpose of “spraying/fogging” in an effort to eliminate mosquitoes.

However, the city does “fog” in residential areas when conditions are optimal in an effort to control mosquito populations in the area. Unfortunately, frequent rains wash away chemicals from fogging. And, the wind doesn’t always cooperate in helping push chemicals in the desired direction, Fuentes said.

“We are always looking at how do we run the truck that we can maximize our fog and to make sure that we get the right windage to cross over and fog so that properties get the maximum benefit.”

In addition to fogging, Fuentes said the city uses a variety of other abatement methods including larvicide. They are also in the process of developing a city ordinance that will also help in the abatement of mosquitoes.

Mosquito Larvicide - Bti. (Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis) granules are available at City Hall upon request. Bti is a naturally occurring soil bacterium that can effectively kill mosquito larvae present in water and it does not pose a risk to people or their pets.

“We have granules for residents to deploy themselves,” Fuentes said. “If you want some of those granules, they are free of charge. Come up here [City Hall] and get a bag with instructions so you can self-deploy and go around and treat different water areas. It’s also safe for animals.”

Adding to these comments, Don Barker said of all of the methods fogging is not as effective as residents may think. Instead, larvicide treatment is proven more effective because the chemicals in fogging only kills the mosquitoes that it touches and does not kill hatching mosquitoes, Barker said.
“A side note worth mentioning is with the fogging that’s the least effective method of all and that’s why we are trying to not do that so much and use surveillance, distribution and try and take care of it in mass and more diplomatically get people involved instead of just going out fogging willy nilly,´Barker said. “A team effort between residents and the City of Sonora are key to reducing the risk of exposure to biting mosquitoes.”

Surveillance means standing outside and waiting to count the number of instances mosquitoes land and bite on exposed skin, according to Fuentes and Barker.

Barker said the city is required by the state to have paperwork of when the city has collection data. This data consists of biting rates, number of mosquitoes, when fogging takes place, how much chemical was used and how was the excess chemical disposed of, he added.

Aside from the city’s efforts to control mosquitoes, Barker said it is important that residents do their part to help as well.

“We will never be able to completely eliminate them all, but working together can bring them to a tolerable number,” Barker said. “Everyone has to do something.”

Barker said he has documented a variety of mosquitoes in Sonora, making it more difficult to eliminate them. Various species behave differently and are active at different times of the day.

Citizens can help by taking steps by eliminating potential mosquito breeding grounds around homes and other property areas. Drain areas where water collects and settles for more than three days, clean gutters, remove trash and debris, empty fountains and ponds. Additionally, residents should notify the city of any areas with a heavy or persistent mosquito population.

Other ways to take the bite out of pesky mosquitoes are for residents to use insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin or IR355. Oil of lemon eucalyptus is also affective.

Residents can also wear light colored, loose fitting clothing. Long sleeves, long shirts and pants covering all of the leg can also help minimize exposure, avoid dusk and dawn activities, use an insect repellent on exposed skin and make sure the doors and windows are tight.

Managing the nuisance of mosquito populations is a priority of the city of Sonora according to Fuentes, but as with attempting to get rid of any insect it isn’t easy.

“Mosquitoes are just as much of a nuisance to me as they are to everyone else,” Fuentes said. I don’t like mosquitoes either. It’s a challenge. And we just encourage everyone to help get the word out. With the combination of us doing our stuff, citizens getting educated and us providing that assistance, we won’t completely eradicate it, but we will hopefully reduce the number of mosquitoes in the city.”