As a child growing up in Seaford, my father-in-law and his friends use to gleefully follow the “foggy man” as he made his way through town. What better way to spend your days off from school than to ride your bike through the mysterious clouds of fog on the way to your next misadventure. Rachel Carson (and their parents) would have been horrified; the “foggy man” was spraying DDT across the neighborhood as a means of controlling the mosquito population.
Although thanks in large part to the efforts of Rachel Carson and the Environmental Defense Fund, the foggy man no longer rides in Long Island. However, every summer, Suffolk County Vector Control takes to the air and sprays larvicides into the salt marshes of Long Island. Although these efforts most certainly cull the mosquito populations, they also have collateral damage in the form of non-target insects and crustaceans.
Unfortunately, spraying the marshes is only a bandaid for the real issue–ditches dug in the marshes. During the depression, workers worked around the clock to dig ditches in the marshes to limit the amount of standing water; many Long Island marshes greatly resemble a checker board from the air. Recognizing the deleterious consequences of ditching on the natural system, municipalities generally do not maintain these ditches any longer. As such, the fish are largely confined to the remaining ditches, whereas the mosquitoes have a free-for-all to breed on the squares of the checker board.
Thus, the restoration of natural hydrology should be a top priority for the Vector Control agencies and other interested parties. In this way, people can take advantage of mother nature’s vector control–fish!