Spring weather has returned to the South Okanagan and with that comes the beginning of mosquito season, so the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen has started its annual control program to help tackle standing water sites that are the key breeding grounds.
Every year the mosquito control program will distribute the natural, granular larvicide on a permission basis or request basis to properties throughout the South Okanagan-Similkameen,
“We use a product called Bti, which is a naturally occurring bacteria targeted towards mosquitoes and biting black flies. It's the most environmentally friendly product that we can or that exists that we can use,” Shelley Fiorito, the Utilities Department project coordinator said.
It started off in 1974 as a way to ensure tourists' comfort with the areas, the program has continued using the same product for nearly fifty years.
“Part of the thought process behind the program was to make sure that not only tourists were comfortable but also the industry and producers were happy. So we've got some livestock and fruit production and orchards. So their staff struggle, because they're outside all the time and struggle with the large populations of mosquitoes. So part of that was why the program was initiated in the first place.”
The larvicide, which doesn't harm fish or other wildlife, is dropped by helicopters or distributed by hand over standing water areas in order to interrupt mosquito larvae before they even hatch.
“We're up over 400, close to 450 properties now and I think people enjoy the benefits of it. It's now a regional service with the RDOS,” Fiorito said.
“The purpose of the program is to reduce the mosquito population to a comfortable level. That's all we're trying to do. We're not eliminating anything. That's not a practical approach to the program. What we're trying to do is just make the outdoors comfortable for people.”
Information published by Health Canada states that Bti only becomes toxic within the stomach of mosquito and black fly larvae. Because of this, it does not affect other insects, honeybees, fish, birds or mammals.
There have been no documented cases involving toxicity or endocrine disruption potential to humans or other mammals over the many years of use in Canada and around the world.
“The products that we use are specifically targeted to those two types of biting mosquitoes and biting black flies, there isn't a lingering effect in the water column,” Fiorito said.
“For the bacteria, it's naturally occurring anyways, it's not a synthetic chemical we're using for mosquito control.”
The control level that the RDOS aims for does not include eliminating the population. An important part of maintaining a low mosquito population is also lowering the risk of West Nile Virus and Zika Virus.
“There's always still going to be mosquito larvae in the water and I know that there are some concerns with groups regarding the impact that it would have on species that exist in the water bodies already,” Fiorito said. “[For] dragonflies or the bat population, mosquitoes aren't a huge part of the food source for any of those species.”
The program covers all of the RDOS including municipal districts. Residents wishing to request spraying can call the Mosquito Hotline at 250-490-4142.