Mass Audubon’s Position on Mosquito Control

Mass Audubon supports a scientifically based mosquito-borne disease management program to protect public health while minimizing environmental and public health risks associated with some forms of mosquito control. The existing programs for mosquito control in Massachusetts are antiquated and fragmented, and reform is needed.

State Public Health Plan

Mass Audubon also supports the consistent application of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's (DPH) Massachusetts Arbovirus Surveillance and Response Plan. This plan is responsible and well thought out, emphasizing public education to prevent mosquito bites and remove artificial sources of standing water around homes and neighborhoods. DPH also supports judicious, targeted use of larvicides such as in catch basins. The DPH only recommends spraying of chemical pesticides to kill adult mosquitoes where monitoring indicates that the disease risk is high and targeted intervention is warranted.

Mosquito Districts and Local Communities

Unfortunately, communities do not always have access to mosquito control programs that are fully consistent with the DPH plan. There are nine different districts in Massachusetts, operating in nine different ways. There is no single set of Best Management Practices that they all must follow. They are exempt from the Wetlands Protection Act. Some of the districts engage in nuisance control pesticide spraying and other activities not recommended by DPH.

Fundamental reform of legislation governing mosquito control in Massachusetts is needed to update the programs and make them consistent with the best available public health based operating standards.

Once a community joins a mosquito control district, it delegates mosquito control activities to the district. The level of local control and tailoring of programs to meet local needs and desires varies from district to district. Some mosquito control districts will voluntarily tailor their services to meet community requests.

If your community is a member of a mosquito district, we recommend that you request that the district voluntarily limit itself to the actions called for in the DPH plan, and that no wetland ditching or draining or nuisance control pesticide applications be conducted. We do not recommend community participation in mosquito districts that refuse to focus and limit their work in accordance with the DPH plan. If there is a public health emergency in your area and immediate action is needed, public health officials can arrange other options for mosquito control treatments.

Spraying of pesticides to control adult mosquitoes is the least effective and most environmentally damaging method of mosquito control. Spraying should be conducted only where the risk of human cases of WNV or EEE is high due to actual presence of WNV- or EEE-carrying mosquitoes in close proximity to concentrations of human habitation. The Department of Public Health should be the primary authority establishing the protocols for spraying based on best available science and risk assessments.

Legislative Reform

Mass Audubon supports legislative reform of mosquito control practices.

Our key recommendation is that the State Reclamation and Mosquito Control Board be reformed to include representatives of DPH and Department of Fish and Game, as these agencies hold the expertise necessary to an effective mosquito control program. Although the Reclamation Board consults with these agencies in responding to mosquito-borne diseases, the Commonwealth's public health agency should be the lead coordinator at all times.

The mosquito control system should also be reformed through legislation, regulation and policy initiatives to improve state coordination and oversight of the nine mosquito control districts. Mosquito districts should be required to operate with more flexibility in providing only services a particular member community requests.