While some may dread frigid winter months like the ones folks experience in Michigan, Bay County Mosquito Control views it as a luxury. That’s because they have more “downtime” than warmer regions, and during that extended time period is when they plan in complete detail their seasonal mosquito control efforts, almost like a military operation.

According to Tom Putt, Bay County Mosquito Control Director, “Preparation is essential. We have to be totally prepared, so when it’s time to go we are 110 percent ready. That’s a real bonus for the program.”

Mary McCarry, biologist for Bay County Mosquito Control, adds, “We can offer a good program because we have time to think things through.”

And the winter months, they claim, are “as busy in January as in July.” During these non-treatment months is when they map out comprehensively how they will treat the 443 square miles of the county.

Bay County’s habitat is unique from other districts in that it’s a coastal county, close to Lake Heron, which gives way to vegetation and puddling. Something else unique about the program is its New Jersey light traps are operated by residents who are compensated to run the traps three nights a week. Mosquito control efforts in the summer months include adulticiding and larviciding, with a biology department that conducts mosquito and disease surveillance. Bay County, like many areas of the country, experienced high West Nile virus activity this past summer, with both mosquito pools and dead birds testing positive for the disease. In fact, the state of Michigan experienced a surge of West Nile virus human cases, and as of early October, the count had risen to 210 human cases with 10 deaths.

As both Putt and McCarry describe the planning that goes into their operation as almost “military-like”, they now “close the book on 2012 and start to think about 2013.” McCarry explains how time is spent during those busy winter months: between chemical bids; aerial contracts (for the 40,000-50,000 acres that will need to be treated); winterizing equipment (their trucks will travel 200,000 miles during treatment season, including 1,400 miles of roadside ditches); map updates; hosting training and certification sessions; reviewing product trial successes; taking product inventory; and of course, developing the specifics of the coming season’s spray plan. Also, as soon as spray season has ended, a full-time mechanic begins to inspect each and every piece of equipment, new and old, bumper to bumper – including 34 trucks, electric pumps, ULV sprayers, spreaders, etc. – to make sure everything is calibrated and in shape for the coming season.

Putt and McCarry reiterate, “Planning is key. When the season starts, we carry out the plan: we know exactly what we’re going to do, with some small adjustments based on weather. We have ample time to be very planned and very organized, so when spring hits, we’re ready to go.”

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