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South Jordan Journal

Shields reappointed to Mosquito Abatement Board, residents can help control numbers now

Feb 09, 2024 10:40AM ● By Elisa Eames

Mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) eat mosquito larvae. (South Salt Lake Valley Mosquito Abatement District)

 On Jan. 24, the Herriman City Council approved a resolution reappointing Councilmember Steven Shields as the Herriman Representative for the South Salt Lake Valley Mosquito Abatement District. He has been the representative for Herriman on the Mosquito Abatement District Board for the last four years. 

“I certainly enjoy my service on the [board],” Shields said proudly. “The board [is] very engaged, informed and supportive of the mission of the District.”

Founded in 1952 as an independent local government district, the organization is located in West Jordan and serves most of Salt Lake Valley. Each municipality within the boundaries of the District selects one representative to be on the Board of Trustees. 

“There are more than 20 [trustees] representing lots of areas,” Shields explained. The District also employs a small full-time staff in addition to a few dozen employees who supplement crews during mosquito season. 

 Property taxes provide direct funding for the District, which uploads financial data quarterly to the website Transparent Utah (transparent.utah.gov) to show the public how money is being spent. Transparent Utah can also be accessed via the District website. 

“I… represent the taxpayers of Herriman,” Shields said. “[The District] is a well-run organization, and our residents can feel satisfied that their tax dollars are being used wisely.” 

Also serving on the District Audit Committee, Councilmember Shields has the opportunity to periodically examine financial statements for signs of waste, abuse or fraud. As part of his role as the city’s representative, Shields attends District board meetings as well as state and national mosquito abatement conferences. “I… ask questions about our practices for abating mosquitos, the materials we use, their safety and efficacy, and alternatives that we’ve considered,” he noted. “I’ve got a good handle on the operations, finances and mission of the district, and am fully engaged.” 

Even this early in the year, Shields supports the District as staff begin their spring preparations, which include completing purchases and evaluating data and statistics.

Recognizing the danger that the mosquito, which is Spanish for “little fly,” poses to the population, the District’s mission statement is “to serve the public by minimizing mosquito nuisance and disease with a priority on safety, ecological stewardship and cost efficiency.” Of the 3,500-plus species of mosquitoes found worldwide, it is estimated that there are around 50 species in Utah. 

The District’s website asserts that mosquitos “claim more lives every year than sharks, snakes, dogs, crocodiles, lions and humans combined.” The bothersome insects have even decided the fates of armies and crowned victors in battle. The Greeks ultimately won the Greco-Persian Wars because their enemies contracted malaria while traveling through swampland, and the Crusades ended in failure partly due to other mosquito-borne diseases. One New York Times best-selling author even called the mosquito “our deadliest predator.” 

In Utah, the primary focus is on preventing West Nile virus, and as soon as the weather warms up, the District will send numerous crews around the valley to monitor and curb the mosquito population. Their main objective is to control larvae, and they do this partly by mapping, inspecting, and treating bodies of standing water around the District. Treatments include larvae-eating fish and larvicide briquets, both of which the District also provides to homeowners upon request for residential ponds and other sources of water. Crews also regularly inspect and clean out storm drains.

A common source of mosquitoes is ornamental backyard ponds. All mosquitoes need water to reach adulthood, and when temperatures are high, they only need one week to mature. “We have a dedicated team of technicians to help homeowners enjoy these water features without steady swarms of mosquitoes,” says the District’s website. 

Shields added this advice for residents: “If there are ponds that aren’t amenable to drainage, then check in with the District about mosquitofish (one of my favorite things I’ve learned about). The District will come out and place fish into your pond…a simple, chemical-free and natural way to lower mosquito populations.”

The District also addresses airborne mosquitos if they become excessively bothersome or if they pose a public health risk. Technicians set surveillance traps weekly to determine if the adult population is large enough to warrant fogging, a treatment where insecticide is sprayed as a mist around the affected area. Only female mosquitoes bite humans and animals. 

“There are the challenges of forecasting when and where certain species of mosquitoes will breed each year,” clarified Shields. “But the expert management and experienced staff do a great job in managing the resources to address concerns as they come up.”

Educating residents about what they can do to help is another of the District’s aims. Staff members can provide educational presentations for schools, city events, city councils, senior centers, homeowners associations and health fairs. 

“Small efforts around your home can significantly reduce mosquitoes! Start by looking around your yard and eliminating any standing water. Even a mere tablespoon of water can produce many mosquitoes,” the website reveals. In addition to maintaining ornamental ponds, the District encourages vigilance in keeping water features and bird baths clean and cautions against letting horse troughs go more than a week without being cleaned or emptied. Even holes within tree trunks can breed mosquitoes.

Last year, mosquito populations in Utah reached 10 times their projected levels. District Director Dan McBride declared that efforts to reduce the 2024 population should begin now. “It seems simple, but go in your backyard right now, and if you have anything collecting water, like buckets or kids’ toys, turn them upside down right now because that water is where [mosquitoes] will go first,” he warned. “They’ll start popping up as early as the middle of March.” 

Noting the current prevalence of malaria and dengue fever in some areas of the world, McBride also encouraged travelers to see their doctors before heading overseas. 

“And make sure any screens in your home are in good repair after the winter and that there are no holes,” he said. “Please contact us if anyone has any questions or concerns. We’re your number one source of information about mosquitoes, and we’re happy to answer [questions].”  

Echoing McBride’s admonishment, Shields agrees that citizens can make a huge difference. “The most important thing that residents can do to help is to not have any standing water sources on their properties,” he said. “If they have ponds, small kid pools, or even watering cans or plant holders, they should check them regularly… And always, please use insect repellant sprays when out in nature that contain approved ingredients to deter disease-carrying species from biting you.”

For more information, visit the District’s website at sslvmad.org or call (801) 255-4651. λ