Connecticut has been testing mosquitoes for West Nile since 1997. Today, Andreadis’ outfit operates 91 traps in areas all across the state, and tests 180,000- 200,000 mosquitoes each year. The whole concept is to “get a better sense of the risk to the public,” Andreadis says.
There are actually 52 different mosquito species in Connecticut, but only a few carry diseases that can threaten human life. (The West Nile baddie’s nom de guerre is “Culex pipiens.”) Standing stagnant water in places like catch basins and storm drains and ditches are ideal breeding grounds, and the ideal conditions for raising mosquitoes here involve a wet spring and high summer heat.
Andreadis notes that the heavy rains we’ve had in recent weeks actually weren’t good for Culex pipiens, since the mosquito’s larvae were all washed out of those standing water places into rivers and the Sound where fish gobble them up.
Of course, those storms have left plenty of standing water in their wakes, and now we’ve got a heat wave on, and that suits mosquitoes just fine. Hot temperatures also accelerate the development of the virus inside the little buggers.
“We could see the virus beginning to build,” Andreadis warns.
Since West Nile was first spotted in Connecticut in 1999, state records show that 52 people have been infected here (plus three state residents infected while traveling elsewhere) and five people have died. There is no vaccine against West Nile and no specific cure, but the vast majority of people infected do survive.
Andreadis thinks the ban on methoprene, and the exceptions for its use, makes no sense.
“In Connecticut, very little methoprene is used on a regular basis,” he points out. And methoprene isn’t the pesticide of choice in the event that there’s an outbreak of West Nile somewhere.
Andreadis says that, if his tests discovered an infestation of West Nile somewhere and it was considered a crisis, the sort of pesticide laid down would target adult mosquitoes carrying the disease. It would basically be too late to use methoprene to kill the larvae.
Hyatt insists the partial ban “doesn’t hinder our ability to respond to a crisis at all.” He says it simply puts on a new “level of oversight that previously didn’t exist.”
At this stage, Crismale doesn’t really care that much about new tests or studies. He’s giving up fishing for a living.
“They’ve worn my optimism out,” he shrugs. “I’m done.”