Possession Beach takes safe swat at mosquitos

Beachgoers at Possession Beach last year faced an army of mosquitos that quite possibly turned many away from spending time there.

In hopes of reducing the population of mosquitos -- and the possibility of the West Nile Virus -- the Port District of South Whidbey will begin an environmentally friendly method of eradicating the bugs before they hatch.

Art Pratt, caretaker for the Port District, said mosquitos forced many people to leave the Possession Beach Waterfront Park and the Cleveland Trail.

"We have millions of them," said Pratt. "In the past we've had so many mosquitos people got up and left after five minutes."

Pratt said the Port sought the advice of the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, a Eugene, Ore.,-based group, on how to safely rid the area of mosquitoes.

NCAP recommended a household product known as Mosquito Dunk, according to Pratt. The Mosquito Dunk, commonly referred to as doughnuts because of their round shape, are solid pieces of the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, or Bti.

Pratt said there are two areas at Possession Beach that will be treated with the Bti doughnuts: a canal that runs parallel to the beach and a pond. Neither of those is used by the public, and the two sites will be treated with a total of 50 doughnuts each month.

Each doughnut will cover approximately 100 square feet of water, Pratt explained, and a doughnut can be broken up to cover a smaller area.

The product costs $11.19 for a package of six doughnuts, or $89.52 for 48.

"We have lots of breeding ground for the mosquitoes," said Pratt.

He said the mosquito breeding ground varies depending on the time of year and the amount of rainfall. The more standing stagnant water there is, the more mosquitoes there are, he said.

When studying the NCAP's effective ways to kill mosquitoes before they hatch, Pratt said he learned "a coffee can with an inch of water can produce over 1,000 mosquitoes every seven days."

"That's a lot of mosquitoes," he said. "Do you know how many mosquitoes that would produce down here?" he said of Possession Beach.

The Bti works because it effectively kills mosquitoes before they hatch, said Pratt. The Bti donut sinks and dissolves in the water, then rises to form a film over the water. The film poisons the mosquito larvae and prevents them from turning into an adult mosquito, Pratt explained.

He said poisons to kill adults are less effective than getting the insects before they hatch.

Pratt said the donuts are non-toxic to humans and other animals. He said the Environmental Protection Agency had said the effects on humans were "minimal to non-existent."

Pratt said many forms of mosquito control are toxic, and had been known to kill bees and hummingbirds.

"We have to do something to provide safety," he said. "We don't want to use anything poisonous."

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