ARLINGTON –– Nestled within a pleasant South Arlington neighborhood is the perfect spot for spawning last year’s West Nile outbreak: a drainage ditch, the ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
Last year, Arlington didn't have anyone to monitor and treat standing water in drainage ditches or yards, unless someone called to complain.
Arlington has a population of more than 370,000 people. The city hired a mosquito control company to fill the void for the first time in July.
This year, Arlington planned for West Nile early.
"Our environmental health services department is too small to do the entire city," said Arlington Assistant Fire Chief David Carroll. "So we involve a contractor to help us."
VDCI, Vector Disease Control International, a private contractor, is now doing mosquito control for at least five North Texas cities.
Last year's West Nile outbreak, the worst in this region’s history, has brought much business to VDCI and other private contractors. The industry was virtually non-existent here three years ago.
"Agencies that did have mosquito control needed help," said Jason Williams, and entomologist with VDCI. "Agencies that didn't have mosquito control needed mosquito control. So that's what happened. They've been bidding out for contracts very vigorously this year."
Private contractors can be more affordable than full-time mosquito control units. They can also tailor their measures to a city's budget and needs.
"We're seasonal," said Williams. "So you don't have to pay us all year. So we're just going to work for you when you need us and how you need it."
Arlington is also against aerial mosquito spraying and prefers to use all-natural larvaecides before chemical spraying is considered.
Asst. Chief Carrol says they city will consider ground spraying if there is a cluster of positive mosquito traps or a human case. Richardson and Highland Park have already sprayed after finding just one West Nile infected trap. Both of those cities also contract out mosquito control.
In Arlington, 21 traps are now being set citywide to monitor for disease.
With the help of private contractors, Arlington and other cities, hope to get ahead of West Nile season before mosquitos terrorize and sicken residents.