Fort Worth won’t use aerial spraying for mosquitoes…for now

With mosquito-borne illnesses down in Fort Worth, the city isn’t planning to use aerial spraying to fight mosquitoes carrying the West Nile or Zika virus for the time being.

Tarrant County Public Health is collecting input from cities asking their thoughts on aerial spraying and whether cities would be willing to help pay for aerial spray missions. Fort Worth Code Compliance Director Brandon Bennett told the city council on Aug. 23 that focusing on educational efforts and targeting source pools where mosquitoes breed would be more cost-effective and environmentally friendly than aerial spraying.

Part of the reason is that mosquitoes can develop a resistance to insecticide after too much exposure, Bennett said.

Aerial spraying can also be costly. The effort would cost about $390,000 per season or, if there’s an outbreak, $1.2 million for three consecutive missions. That’s compared to ground spraying, which can cost about $40,000-$60,000 per season.

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At the same time, human cases of West Nile – which Bennett said is more of a concern in Fort Worth than Zika – have decreased since the spike that occurred in 2012. According to Bennett, Fort Worth had 81 cases in 2012. This year, as of Aug. 23, Fort Worth has had seven cases, which occurred in zip codes 76179, 76131, 76120, 76110, 76133 and 76116.

Bennett said he recommends that the city focus on education, source pool reduction and some ground spraying rather than investing on aerial spraying. However, he also recommends that the city remain open to the possibility of aerial spraying in case a more serious outbreak occurs.