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Spraying for mosquitoes continues in Southeastern Mass.

Organic farmers express worries

As the state conducted aerial pesticide sprayings in 21 Southeastern Massachusetts communities to combat mosquitoes that may carry Eastern equine encephalitis, David Hanson, co-owner of Hanson Farm in Bridgewater, said he is pleased there will be fewer bugs to battle.

“When you’re working outside all the time, in the evening when we still have a couple hours of work to do and the conditions are right, the mosquitoes are overwhelming,” he said.

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Jack Kittredge, policy director of the Northeast Organic Farming Association’s Massachusetts chapter and owner of Many Hands Organic Farm in Barre, said there are more targeted and safe methods to get rid of mosquitoes than the broad aerial method the Department of Public Health and Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources used over the weekend.

The spray is Anvil 10+10, a combination of equal parts sumithrin, a pesticide, and the compound piperonyl butoxide, which activates the sumithrin. Officials said the product is effective against mosquitoes, breaks down quickly in sunlight, and has a low toxicity to humans and animals.

“Even though they say it’s less toxic than other alternatives, it’s still toxic,” Kittredge said. “There are a lot of devices, traps and so forth, that can be installed and monitored and run that are much more targeted.’’

The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources said pilots avoided spraying certified organic farms, which are registered with the state, but Kittredge said he did not think that was feasible.

“I don’t know how you exempt something from a spray,” he said. “Most of our farms are very small. It’s not realistic.”

Officials have found mammal-biting mosquitoes infected with the disease in Carver, Easton, Lakeville, New Bedford, Rehoboth, and West Bridgewater. There have not been any confirmed Eastern equine encephalitis cases in humans this year, said Anne Roach, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Health.

The spraying campaign resumed at sundown Sunday, officials said, after it was curtailed after an hour Saturday night because it was too cool for mosquito activity.

Crews sprayed all of Taunton and Raynham on Saturday, as well as swaths of Bridgewater and Lakeville, before the spraying was called off, Roach said.

When temperatures dip below 57 degrees, mosquitoes are less active and not as likely to fly into the pesticide sprays, she said.

“It’s more about mosquito flights than the spray itself,” Roach said. “It becomes less effective.”

Aerial spraying was scheduled to resume between 8:15 p.m. Sunday and 2 a.m. Monday over Acushnet, Bridgewater, Carver, East Bridgewater, Freetown, Halifax, Hanson, Kingston, Lakeville, Middleborough, Pembroke, Plympton, Rochester, and West Bridgewater. Berkley, Dighton, Easton, Norton, and Rehoboth were sprayed Friday night. There may be more sprayings later in the summer.

The Department of Public Health advised residents to close doors and windows during the spraying, keep pets inside, and continue taking their own precautions against getting bitten by mosquitoes, such as using insect repellant and staying indoors between dusk and dawn.

Hanson, of Bridgewater, said that unlike in previous years, he had not been told to take any precautions to protect his crops and livestock. Any of his employees still tending to the farm’s sweet corn, feed hay, bees, and chickens when aerial spraying began at 8:15 p.m. would finish their work, and cows would be allowed to wander in and out of the barn as they normally do.

“For the most part, it’s really just get the work done, seven days a week, 16 hours a day,” Hanson said. “I can understand where the organic farmers would be concerned, though.”

Gal Tziperman Lotan can be reached at gal.lotan@globe.com.
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