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District's response to mosquito complaints falling short

June 29, 2011
Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

During this week's Planning Commission meeting, several members of the panel brought up the issue of the mosquito populations on the islands of late. They noted that this year's crop of "flying bloodsuckers" is seemingly the worst it's ever been.

They also noted that the response thus far by the Lee County District Mosquito Control District (LCMCD), which provides mosquito control for Sanibel as well as the rest of the county, has been inadequate.

According to Dr. Phillip Marks, he attempted to contact the LCMCD on multiple occasions via e-mail, without receiving a single response. He said that he has also left messages for somebody to call him back, but had yet to receive a response.

"Usually if you call and tell them the mosquitos are bad, they say it's because of the rainy season... but that's certainly not the case this year," he told his fellow commissioners.

"I've got a pair of ankles that got eaten up pretty bad when I golfed over the weekend," added commission chair Michael Valiquette. "And the mosquitos this year seem to be different, because the itch doesn't come until the next day."

"Mosquito season" typically runs from May through October and their activity increases with rain, particularly after heavy rains that produce large areas of standing water. Due to the abundance of mangroves, wetlands and salt marches, Sanibel is a prime breeding ground for mosquitos.

Earlier this month, the City of Sanibel issued a statement that islanders experiencing a high number of mosquitos at their residences should make a service request by visiting In addition, they provided a phone number (239-694-2174) so that citizens could contact the LCMCD directly.

It appears that either line of communication hasn't done any good.

According to the city's statement, if the LCMCD receives complaints from a specific area or neighborhood, they have agreed to dispatch personnel to conduct a mosquito count. If warranted, district representatives will fog or spray the area.

However, the information provided on the LCMCD's website seems to contradict the information issued by the city.

"The number of phone calls for service does not determine when or where treatment for adult mosquitoes will be done," one FAQ response reads, in part. "Spraying for adult mosquito outbreaks occur only on an as needed basis and only if mosquito populations meet state guidelines for treatment."

The LCMCD goes on to explain that, in general, their staff will know where mosquito populations have increased. "Occasionally, phone calls are important because they alert the district of potential problem areas that surveillance has not predicted."

So if phone calls alerting the district to potential mosquito infestations do not determine when or where treatments will take place, why should islanders bother to contact the LCMCD in the first place? As their own words indicate, those calls are only important "occasionally."

We aren't requesting that our readers call the LCMCD en masse in order to gain the undivided attention of the district, but we would urge that the district itself respond in a more professional — and timely — manner to the concerns of its citizenry. Every phone call, e-mail and inquiry alerting them to a potential mosquito problem, be it on Sanibel or elsewhere in the county, should be treated respectfully and with real concern for resolving the issue. As Dr. Marks indicated, mosquitos can carry a number of viral diseases — including West Nile virus, malaria, yellow fever and a number of varieties of encephalitis. As such, every alert to the LCMCD could potentially prevent a devastating outbreak of disease.

We know that the LCMCD can do better, and we pray that any problems with those pesky airborne predators warrants only as much as a dab of calamine lotion.

— Reporter editorial



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