Massachusetts farmers spend many of their working hours outside. Their busiest time is often late summer and early fall, which puts them at a greater risk for contracting diseases spread through mosquitos, particularly Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). This disease can cause severe illness and possibly lead to death. To maintain the health of the Commonwealth’s farmers, their families and employees, the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) is urging towns not to  opt out of the aerial spraying program conducted by the state.

 

“There are a number of towns choosing to opt out of the aerial spraying program. This is alarming to many farmers and their employees who are at risk for contracting EEE and other diseases that mosquitos carry,” said MFBF President Mark Amato. “As an organization, we are supportive of the science-based efforts that the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural (MDAR) has made to control the mosquito population and urge towns to remain a part of the targeted aerial spraying program. In Massachusetts, aerial spraying is an important part of an integrated mosquito control strategy that includes source reduction, larviciding and personal protection. While EEE has not been found in any mosquitos captured yet this season, it is only a matter of time before it becomes a serious risk. We are concerned about the growing patchwork of opt-outs created by these towns and the reduced effectiveness the state control measures will have on mosquito populations.”

 

Massachusetts has one of the most progressive regulatory agencies in the country, and the farming community is confident that the insecticide chosen is the safest and most effective available. Impacts on bees are of obvious concern to the farming community. However, MFBF is confident that this spraying will not impact bees. MDAR has been monitoring honeybee hives during previous years spraying events and has not seen any negative impacts. The spray program can exclude certified organic farms.

 

“If the mosquito samples show that the risk of EEE warrants it, spraying will be conducted by airplane between dusk and dawn in areas of concern,” Amato said. “The state is working to ensure mosquito control occurs in areas where they have found the insect to be carrying diseases that negatively impact human health and the adjoining communities that are at risk.
There is no treatment for EEE and it can cause death or permanent disability in those who survive. While farmers and their employees are taking precautions to ensure their safety, the farming community needs to see science-based pest management implemented (in the form of targeted aerial spraying) to ensure their continued safety. For these reasons, MFBF continues to urge towns to remain a part of the Commonwealth’s aerial spraying program and supports MDAR’s mosquito control program.

 

For more information on EEE in Massachusetts, please visit: https://www.mass.gov/guides/eee-in-massachusetts.