Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Putting a bite on buffer zones

Lack of skeeters leads to drop in requests to stop fogging

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Two years of relatively mosquito-free summers have sparked a dramatic decline in the number of Winnipeggers who do not want bug-killing pesticide sprayed on their property.

Between January and mid-August, 365 people registered for pesticide-free buffer zones -- down 80 per cent from 2010, when City of Winnipeg data show 1,700 people did not want mosquito- and cankerworm-killing chemicals sprayed on their properties. The year 2010 saw Winnipeg fog for mosquitoes amid a controversial decision to reduce the size of buffer zones to 90 metres from 100 metres.

Most years, between 1,200 and 1,400 people register for buffer zones. The recent drop makes 2012 one of the lowest years for anti-pesticide registrants since Winnipeg first introduced buffer zones in 1984.

City of Winnipeg entomologist Taz Stuart was unavailable for comment, but city officials said the number of Winnipeggers who register for a buffer zone has dropped since there has been no imminent threat of fogging.

Spokeswoman Tammy Melesko said in a statement the insect control branch's larviciding program has been a success and has worked to reduce the numbers of mosquitoes before they hatch. Weather conditions during the past two years have also kept mosquito populations below the threshold for fogging, she said.

On Tuesday, tracking of daily trap counts posted on the city's website shows there are an average of three mosquitoes city-wide. Trap counts are highest in Winnipeg's northwest, where the trap counts show an average of eight mosquitoes.

"We've been really fortunate this year, not having too many mosquitoes. It hasn't been in the news as much; it probably has dropped out of mind for a lot of people to register," said Green Action Centre spokesman Josh Brandon.

Winnipeg uses malathion when it sprays for mosquitoes and Btk, a biological product that makes cankerworms stop feeding and die.

City residents can register for a 90-metre mosquito buffer zone or 30-metre buffer zone for cankerworm treatments.

Melesko said neighbourhoods such as Wolseley, River Heights and Fort Rouge typically have the largest number of people who register for buffer zones. She said most people who do not want malathion sprayed on their property also do not want to be exposed to Btk.

Brandon said he suspects the number of people who do not want pesticides sprayed may have also declined since the city made it more difficult to register for buffer zones.

In 2011, Winnipeg began requiring anyone who does not want pesticide sprayed on their property to show identification, such as a driver's licence or utility bill, to link them to the residence they want included in the buffer zone.

Brandon said people could previously register by sending an email or a letter, and the change makes it more complicated to get a property on the list.

"A lot of people have sensitivity to the chemicals they're spraying and other legitimate concerns for having fogging near their homes," he said. "The increased barriers to register for a buffer zone are unfair to families who don't want to be exposed to pesticides."

Demand fluctuates over the years

THE city first introduced pesticide buffer zones in the mid-1980s. Since then, the number of Winnipeggers who have said they do not want pesticides sprayed on their property has fluctuated. Here's a breakdown:

2012 - 365

2011 - 620

2010 - 1,700

2009 -- 1,264

2008 -- 1,264

2007 -- 1,389

2006 -- 1,322

2005 -- 937

2004 -- 1,075

2003 -- 364

2002 -- 1,307

2001 -- 1,095

2000 -- 1,115

1999 -- 1,031

1998 -- 428

1997 -- 124

1996 -- 175

1995 -- 157

1994 -- 219

1993 -- 400

1992 -- 797

1991 -- 1,104

1990 -- 381

1989 -- 635

1988 -- 445

1987 -- data unavailable

1986 -- 712

1985 -- 472

-- source: City of Winnipeg

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 22, 2012 B1

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