Thursday, July 18, 2013
7 News Features: Battle of the Bugs
It's a delicate situation. Getting rid of a pest without killing other species. It's a battle of the bugs and it's happening right now in the Florida Keys. As the night team's Patrick Fraser reports, a solution, is not that simple.
Florida Keys Mosquito Control District Michael Doyle: "It's a huge battle."
Go to the keys where they are surrounded by water and you wont believe how many mosquitoes are there.
Michael Doyle: "We kill tens of billions of mosquitos in the water every summer before they get out and bite anyone."
To combat the biting bugs, the Florida Keys mosquito district attacks from the air and the ground to stop biting bugs.
Going island by island sloshing through water. To kill the mosquito larvae, before they hatch and fly off to bite you.
Meanwhile on the same day, a few miles away...
Another duo trudged through the trees also looking for insects.
Biologist at the National Key Deer Refuge Chad Anderson: "Did you look at this one."
But they are not here to kill. Their goal, keep a different bug, butterflies, alive.
Chad Anderson: "The butterflies are in the low numbers, probably in the low 100's."
This bartrams hairstreak and the Florida Leaf Wing Butterflies are in the pine rockland forests of Big Pine Key. The same place where mosquitos are breeding.
Chad Anderson: "Mosquito spray is an insecticide and these are insects. So we are considering it as one of the many threats that the butterfly faces."
One agency's goal is to kill the mosquitos in Big Pine Key.
The other agency's goal, protect the butterflies in Big Pine Key, can you say, conflicting goals?
Chad Anderson: "The butterflies are candidates for being listed under the endangered species act."
And because of that, the Florida Keys mosquito people were told to stop spraying in these neighborhoods, highlighted in blue that are near federal land in Big Pine Key. Meaning the mosquitos are free to fly and bite the residents who walk outside.
Construction Worker Anthony Cromwell: "You can't work, it's annoying. You've got to load down with bug spray."
Mosquito control cant spray pesticide, but they can use helicopters to drop bacteria pellets into the water which kill mosquito larvae, before they hatch.
Puddles missed by the helicopter are treated by ground crews.
Anthony Cromwell: "90 percent of the mosquitos are killed before they get out of the water."
Patrick Fraser: "90 percent of the larvae found in places like this, are killed by the pellets. That's impressive. But that means 10 percent of the larvae hatches and the mosquitoes go on the attack. And in the Florida Keys, it's estimated there are 20 thousand mosquitos for every person. Meaning if 10 percent survive, that's two thousand mosquitoes to go out and attack every man, woman and child.
Big Pine Resident Louis Licitra: "I think it has good intentions."
Residents say if they have to chose between mosquitos and butterflies, the choice is simple.
Louis Licitra: "I'd rather have no mosquitos rather than butterflies."
But that's a choice no one wants to make.
Chad Anderson: "We're working closely with researchers and mosquito control to find the ways that we can both meet our missions."
Find a balance to keep the pretty butterflies alive and make sure the pesky mosquitos are dead.