Hillsborough Co. has new weapon to fight mosquitoes

- Hillsborough County Mosquito Control just unveiled its newest weapon in the war against mosquitos and the Zika virus.

The device is called the Buffalo Turbine and, while this particular model and application were only released last year, it's already been used in South Florida and the Virgin Islands.

The truck contains a 50-gallon tank where water is mixed with BTI, short for Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies israelensis. The bacteria is also found in products like Dunks. BTI bacteria occur naturally in soil and the product is approved for use on organic farms and by the EPA

The mixture is propelled 150 feet into the air using hurricane wind speeds up to 140 miles per hour. The aerosolized droplets are designed to be small enough to drift, but heavy enough to eventually fall to the ground.

Daniel Markowski, PhD, of Vector Disease Control International, says the droplets are only targeted against mosquitos.

"You don't see any sort of harmful effect on people, pets, butterflies, fishes anything," he states.

Instead of killing adult, flying mosquitos, it only kills newly-hatched larva living in water that collects in places like tires, flower pots, and even a capful of water.

The aerosol can blanket areas up to five hundred feet from the road offering an advantage over backpack spraying.

"Where crews go door to door that could take two weeks, with this truck we can do it in two hours," he adds.

Hillsborough Mosquito Control director Donnie Hayes says BTI has been a standard in mosquito control for decades.

"Historically we flew our helicopters along the coast in the salt marsh areas, the big pastures areas and we are treating the larva doing the same thing," Hayes says.

He believes the Buffalo Turbine is a better tool for treating residential areas with reported cases of viruses like Zika; a tool he intends to combine with fogging trucks, weather permitting.

"When we start having disease activity we go out and canvas the area, well we could have 50-60 homes we have to visit and we're out there during business hours working and many people aren't home," he explained. "We're going to go through with our ultra-low volume machines to kill adult mosquitos. And then the next night we're going to go through with one of these buffalo turbines to get some of the larvicide into those areas where the mosquitos were breeding, then we'll go back with the ultra-low to kill any of the mosquitos that may have hatched."

As for where and when the trucks will be spraying, Hayes says they plan to create a resident's portal in their recently launched EIS mosquito mapping program

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