Florida Keys News - Florida Keys Free Press
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
More sprayings planned for new state lands

LOWER KEYS — An updated state management plan implemented last week will likely result in more mosquito sprayings on portions of Sugarloaf Key and a few other areas throughout the island chain.

Florida Keys Mosquito Control District Executive Director Andrea Leal told the Free Press that an Arthropod Management Plan with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was signed into effect on Thursday, June 8. It will allow the district to conduct truck and aerial sprayings under specific conditions on and around roughly 5,500 acres of land purchased by the state since the previous plan went into effect.

“With additions of [state] land that didn’t fall under the old plan, it was just time to update,” Leal said.

Both agencies began working on the new plan in October. During that time, the district couldn’t truck or aerial spray the new state lands, which on Sugarloaf Key happened to border some neighborhoods. The state allowed district employees to apply larvacide by hand.

“These lands are interspersed throughout populated areas. They produce a large number of mosquitoes that then impact residents and visitors,” the district wrote in the plan.

The biggest change under the updated plan is the addition of minimum landing count thresholds per minute for these areas, referred to as mosquito thresholds. Before a truck or aerial adultacide can be sprayed, the district must determine that a certain threshold has been reached by having crews count how many mosquitoes land on them in various areas.

The state land on Sugarloaf Key, on the oceanside of U.S. 1, for example, requires a landing count of 10 mosquitos per minute for a truck spraying and 20 mosquitos per minute for an aerial spraying. No more than 20 truck missions and 10 aerial missions can occur in a year, under the new plan. Leal said district employees will check these thresholds regularly.

Aside from Sugarloaf Key, the plan includes regulations for state land on Ramrod, Middle Torch, Big Torch and Little Torch keys, Marathon, Lake San Pedro, and Snake, Tavernier and Dove creeks. Each has different mosquito thresholds varying from 5 to 10 mosquitoes per minute.

Leal said the district hadn’t been able to conduct truck or aerial sprayings on much of Sugarloaf Key since last season. She said the area of Loop Road really felt the brunt of it.

“It looked like a checkerboard there,” Leal said of the mix of county, state and private lands.

However, that is no longer the case under the new plan, she said.

According to paperwork provided by the district, the updated plan will be implemented on an interim basis for one year. After that, both agencies will reevaluate and decide if modifications are needed. If so, at that time, they will work to revise it.

More sprayings could lead to better control of mosquitoes carrying tropical diseases. The Keys has had only 11 travel-related cases of Zika, a disease that most harshly affects pregnant woman, and no locally-acquired cases. The last confirmed travel-related case was in January.

Leal pointed out that federal land such as the National Key Deer Refuge on Big Pine Key and the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge in north Key Largo, both heavily wooded areas, fall under different, stricter guidelines than the state-owned land.

bbowden@keysnews.com

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