Mosquito fogging buffer zone questioned

The City of Winnipeg's policy of allowing a buffer zone when fogging for mosquitoes in Winnipeg is coming under question.
Mosquitoes caught in city traps are studied in a lab to determine the presence of Culex tarsalis, which is the type that can carry and transmit the West Nile virus. ((CBC))
The City of Winnipeg's policy of allowing a buffer zone when fogging for mosquitoes in Winnipeg is coming under question.

St. Vital Coun. Gord Steeves intends to present a motion at a council meeting Wednesday to review the practice and see if it should be eliminated or the size of the buffer zone reduced.

Mayor Sam Katz has also said he intends to bring forth a motion at the executive police committee (EPC), which also meets Wednesday, to discuss whether any other Canadian cities use buffer zones, and if so, how large a buffer is used.

Currently, residents can ask to have their properties put on a no-spray list, meaning city crews will turn off the malathion fogging machine for a 100-metre zone around their land.

That has raised the ire of many residents who have contacted their councillors to complain because they have been denied relief from the biting insects, whose numbers have exploded.

In the past week, the mosquito count in city-monitored traps soared from dozens to hundreds — and even more in some areas.

A City of Winnipeg truck fogs a street with malathion. ((CBC))
More than 1,000 mosquitoes were found in traps in Kildonan Park and Assiniboine Park.

"There is a lot of tension in the community and a lot of constituent contact to councillors' offices," Steeves stated in a release sent to media.

In the context of an actual city block, a 100-metre buffer zone "can mean a non-application area of as many as 32 to 40 houses," Steeves noted, adding "a buffer zone in a community is extremely volatile, divisive and misunderstood."

Kate Kehler knows her neighbours would rather choose fogging over swatting but she has registered the area around her house as a no-spray zone.

The temporary relief from the mosquitoes is not enough "to justify exposing us to something thay they don't even know what the long term effects are," she said about the malathion.

Jeff Anderson has a neighbour who has applied for a buffer zone and he's not pleased about it.

"I think they're a little bit whacko. We can't enjoy the summer [with mosquitoes around]. I mean, we only get about three weeks outside," he said.

The use of such a zone only encourages neighbouring residents to rely on private application of potentially more harmful pesticides, states the motion Steeves plans to present to council.

Stores selling out

Winnipeggers are already clearing store shelves of chemicals and backyard fogging machines to deal with the mosquito problem themselves.

Several types of residential foggers sell for less than $100 and use the chemical insecticide Propoxur, which is also used against flies in agricultural settings, to control fleas and ticks on pets, and as an acaricide on lawns and turf for ants.

Zara Davies at the McDiarmid Lumber store in St. Vital said the spike in mosquitoes during the past few days has had a huge impact on sales.

"In the first couple of weeks of the summer there was no interest whatsoever," she said. "Now that they've sort of hit, we're completely sold out."

The store will be getting more foggers in the next few days, she said.

Several other stores contacted by CBC News were also sold out of the devices.

Meanwhile, city crews will be fogging Tuesday night in the south part of Winnipeg, including sections of St. Vital and Southdale, St. Norbert and parts of Fort Garry, as well as areas in the north, including River East, Tyndall Park, Old Kildonan and West Kildonan.

The city's fogging schedule is available by clicking the link on the top right of this page.