Thursday, May 1, 2008

Take Action, Locals: Mosquito Emergency in DC

Are you concerned about the mosquito problem in DC? By mosquito problem, I mean the bloodthirsty rampaging of insects that sends us screaming back inside during the balmiest of seasons, the kind of insect assault that makes my homeopathy-loving pediatrician comment wryly, "Just keep slathering their (scabbed and bleeding) legs with Neosporin." I've written about my desire for mosquito abatement measures before.

Well, a fellow citizen has taken action and invites us to do so, too. Apparently, DC claims to be abating the mosquito problem with BT dunks in our poorly-designed, water-retaining sewers. Always skittish careful about supposedly benign (DDT ring a bell?) pest control measures, I checked Beyond Pesticide's take on Bacillus Thuringiensis Israelensis and they give it an unreserved thumbs-up. I emailed Carol, mosquito activist and author of the letter below, and she concurred: "BT dunks are completely safe; bacillus thuringiensis is a natural soil-dwelling bacterium that is toxic to mosquito larvae. It is used by organic gardeners worldwide to control crop-eating caterpillars."

So, what can we do? Check out the letter below, cut & paste it and adapt it slightly (or write an equally passionate and informed plea in your spare time) and send it to Mr. Carl Profater, the West Nile Virus Coordinator for the DC Department of Animal Disease Prevention (, Mayor Adrian Fenty (, your Council Member and your ANC rep.

Thanks, Carol! You rock. Death to the skeeters. Hats off to problem-solving neighbors.

Dear Mr. Profater,

Can you please let us know what the city of Washington is doing about the worsening mosquito problem, particularly in our area? In the past six to seven years, the mosquito population has exploded in DC and many residents can no longer use their yards.

The problem is not only the advent of the Asian Tiger; the mosquito population as a whole has exploded. There has been much discussion on neighborhood listservs about the fact that the city's storm drains contain standing water and that vast numbers of mosquitos are breeding there.

City workers say that the city is supposed to place BT dunks in the drains on a weekly basis. However, we have never seen this done, nor has anyone on the neighborhood listservs; we have lived at our current address for (insert length of residency here) years.

(Fascinating, but only Carol has had these specific, blissfully mosquito-free evening barbecues - if you have relevant anecdotes, share 'em here: Two years ago we moved out of our DC house for a year and a half while it was being renovated. During that time we rented two houses in Loudoun and Faquier counties in Virginia -- one on a working cattle farm with ponds, the other on a rural property with three muddy ponds right next to the house. We enjoyed dinner outside all summer at both places -- without having to even think about mosquitos, repellent, torches, or any other mosquito-fighting equipment.)

Here at our home in DC, we literally cannot stand on the sidewalk for thirty seconds to talk to a neighbor -- forget about having dinner or sitting outside! -- even if we slather on mosquito repellent and surround ourselves with mosquito torches and candles.

The mosquito plague of recent years' onset in our neighborhood is not a result of water sitting in a couple of flower pots here and there on various neighbors' properties. There is a much more fundamental reason why this is occurring and we need a fundamental solution.

We are having a mosquito emergency. This is an enormous public health problem and demands immediate, potent, and continuous action. Please let us know what the city will do to help us and the other residents of Washington, DC on the threshold of summer 2008.
PS You'll note I echo Carol Grunewald's sentiments. She expressed perfectly what many DC residents feel about the outrageous number of mosquitoes here in the city -- my neighborhood in (insert your neighborhood name here) is similarly uninhabitable outdoors during mosquito season.


Anonymous said...


Fellow DC dweller here (We live on the Hill) and I just learned that ivy is a big part of the problem in my tiny backyard.

Apparently the ivy (which is admittedly thick) shields the ground providing many potential damp/wet breeding areas. I ripped out the ivy last week and will replace it with sustainable, edible, useful raspberry canes.

BTW, my kids have been in DCPS for 11 and 10 years respectively, and, as they put it, no mutations yet.

You will really like Wilson High School. We are pretty pleased with the teachers. Stay with us.


MamaBird said...

Mmmm...raspberries beat mosquitoes anyday, Tory. Thanks for stopping by - I am guessing Jess from Silver Spring sent you. And yes, the teachers at Wilson are pretty amazing. "No mutations yet"! Awesome.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I got here through Crunchy Chicken. It's been a huge relief to discover that i am not the only eco-nut out there. I have been like this for over forty years so I am resigned to my fate--urban dwelling, public transit using, eco-femi-nazi.

I think.


MamaBird said...

Hmmm, yes, econuttery abounds and I also *have* been this way for awhile! Celebrating your eco-femi-naziness. No need for resignation. Love Crunchy Chicken! I need to post about her excellent May challenges. She is one motivating character. I heart how she makes further/deeper action so accessible for me.

so NOT cool said...

Ah, yes ... another reason to hate hot, humid summers.

Is it time for winter yet?!

MamaBird said...

Ach, JA So-Not-Cool, I could *not* agree more. I am not a lover of the excessive warmth.

Great Big Veg Challenge said...

This doesnt seem much fun - You poor things.
Hope it gets better soon...

Optimist said...

Great topic! Thanks for the heads up! This weekend, we had what I think is our last meal outside for a while here in Houston. We will be inundated soon. (right now it's the fleas).
We have had some success with a Mosquito Magnet, but the darn things only last one season, and who can spend 1K every year?
I hate the fogging trucks - they rumble by in the night like smoking demons from hell.


MamaBird said...

GBVeg - yes, trying new veggie recipes is way more fun than diving under cover to escape skeeters!

and Optimist - thanks for your support, sounds like your insect population is thriving in TX as well - let me know if you come up with any solutions!

Sojourner said...

Mamabird I would like to tag you for a meme. Please visit my blog for the details!

Katie said...

Do you know of any "safe" mosquito repellant for infants?

Anonymous said...

I own a local mosquito control company in DC called InsectMist. I would love to educate and help anyone on this thread that needs our assistance. You can view us online at Thanks for letting me post and hope to hear from you soon. Karl Hubig