DEM launches aerial assault against mosquitoes

South County

SMITHFIELD, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management took to the skies Thursday to wage war against the state’s mosquito population and the potentially dangerous diseases they carry.

A helicopter took off from Smithfield Airport loaded with larvacide Thursday morning. It will drop the pellets – called BTI – in swampy areas in Westerly, West Warwick, Lincoln, Cumberland and Central Falls – the five communities where Eastern Equine Encephalitis was detected this season.

“We’ll be dispersing the chemical over the swamplands to prevent the larvae from growing into mosquitoes,” Ray Sweeney of Norfolk Helicopters said.

Mosquitoes and horses in Westerly have tested positive for EEE. The state’s first human case of the disease was detected in West Warwick for the first time in years.

FACT SHEET: Prevention & Signs of Mosquito-Borne Illnesses »

The larvacide pellets will target the immature mosquitoes. The DEM said the state also plans to take aim at adult mosquitoes with aerial spraying – which the agency said is often applied by aircraft through sprayers, which dispense very fine aerosol droplets that stay aloft and kill flying mosquitoes on contact.

The DEM said it would release a schedule before any spraying or “adulticiding” fights take place.

In the meantime, health officials and the DEM urged people to take steps to minimize mosquito bites. including:

  • Avoid being outside during peak mosquito hours of dusk to dawn
  • Wear long sleeves and pants while outside
  • Use an insect repellant containing DEET
  • Eliminate standing water in your yard, which serve as mosquito breeding grounds
Mosquito protection

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