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City aims to ease bugs' bite

Port Richey will take on no-see-ums through a deal with a company testing a remedy.

By MATTHEW WAITE

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 10, 2001


PORT RICHEY -- Although there are a few snickers when people say Port Richey will soon be on the cutting edge of killing bugs, it's true.

No-see-ums, beware.

In all seriousness, the City Council voted Tuesday night to spend $12,000 to be one of two Florida cities where a new system for controlling and killing mosquitoes and biting midges (a.k.a. no-see-ums) will be tested.

Port Richey will join Gainesville in a test study by Biosensory Inc., a Connecticut start-up company developing environmentally friendly means to deal with blood-sucking pests. The city will get the equipment at a big discount and city employees will get the training in exchange for Biosensory's getting data on how well its products work on no-see-ums. Jim Nolen, the president of Biosensory, told the council Tuesday night that the company just has anecdotal data on how well its products work on no-see-ums. In comes Port Richey.

"Our parks will prove that out," City Manager Vince Lupo said. "We'll know very quickly."

Lupo should know. A year ago, he came to the City Council when talk of no-see-um control came up and told members about his getting chewed up at the city's waterfront park before Port Richey's 75th anniversary celebration.

What the city voted to buy are essentially two sizes of plastic boxes. One looks like a bug zapper, called the Dragonfly, the other like a beehive, called the 'Cognito.

The Dragonfly "looks like a shaved rabbit to a mosquito," Nolen said. To attract and kill mosquitoes, the unit puts out carbon dioxide -- the fizz in cola -- and an alcohol-based chemical called octenol, which is found in food additives. In the middle of the Dragonfly is a heating element, which to a mosquito or midge resembles flesh over blood.

The 'Cognito uses a chemical the company created called Conceal that prevents mosquitoes and midges from smelling, Nolen said. Smell, he said, is how midges and mosquitoes find their targets. Offered installation for two parks for $24,000, the council decided to install the system just in the waterfront park. Lupo had budgeted $10,000 for midge control, and said the remaining money -- as well as the estimated $175 a month in replacement chemicals and gas -- would come from contingency funds in the city budget.

But Nolen said any thoughts of Port Richey's becoming free of midge and mosquito are fantasy. The pests come back quickly, he said, making controlling -- rather than eliminating -- them the only option.

"I know the (council) minutes said eradication, but you flatter yourself," he said.

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