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Town board will consider treating for black flies

May 17, 2012
By JESSICA COLLIER - Staff Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

TUPPER LAKE - Local people may set fewer bug bites as early as next black fly season.

The town board heard a presentation at their Monday afternoon meeting about how they could have the moving water in and around Tupper Lake treated to cut down on the local black fly population. Kathy Vanselow of Bioconservation Inc. told the board how she and her employees would put a microbial pesticide called Bacillus thurigeniensis var. israelenis, commonly known as BTI, in the areas of running water where black flies breed, killing them when and where they are highly concentrated.

Because her team only treats running water, it has to get state Department of Environmental Conservation permits but not permits from the state Adirondack Park Agency. The APA governs standing water, where mosquitoes breed, so this treatment would not cut down on the mosquito population, Vanselow said.

Vanselow said that in some parts of the world, black flies carry diseases, so the state or federal governments will pay to kill them. But in the Adirondacks, they are just a nuisance, so it's up to the towns if they want to control the local black fly population.

"Just when the weather starts getting nice, that's when the black flies come out," Vanselow said.

Vanselow, who has been in the black fly business for 27 years, said her company has worked in Tupper Lake in the past, but the town stopped that more than a decade ago. Bioconservation Inc. now treats area towns like Wilmington, Keene and Jay.

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If Tupper Lake were to opt in, Vanselow and her team would come starting in the late summer and map out the water in the area to plan their attack. Though she still has much of the paperwork for when they used to work in Tupper Lake, the maps will need to be updated, she said. She would take that new information and apply to the DEC for a permit to start treatments.

Then in the late winter or early spring, when the streams start to get warmer and black fly larvae start to feed, Vanselow and her team would come in by foot, canoe or sometimes bicycle, and put the pesticide in a liquid form into the water.

"As soon as they start feeding, I've got to be out there," Vanselow said.

Generally that would happen between the first and third week of March, but Vanselow said her teams were out a month early this year due to early warm weather.

When her company used to treat Tupper Lake's waters, it was about an 83-square-mile area they covered, Vanselow said.

BTI has a 100-percent kill rate, so bugs never develop resistance to it like they sometimes do with DDT. Vanselow said it is the most environmentally friendly option for killing black flies because the substance only kills black flies and mosquitoes.

"That's why the DEC lets us use it," Vanselow said.

Vanselow originally told the town her work would cost about $26,000 a year, plus a one-time $5,000 mapping fee to get started. But she said she had done some work mapping the Adirondack Club and Resort property, which is slated for development in the next few years and sits on the edge of town. If that property were added, Vanselow said it would likely cost about $30,000 a year.

ACR developer Tom Lawson said his group is interested in the program and will help the town pay for it if it happens.

Town Supervisor Roger Amell said the town, the village and ACR developers have all discussed the idea and all parties might be willing to contribute money to it. Amell said no one has offered any specific numbers as far as contribution amounts or percentages yet.

Amell said the ACR developers originally talked about paying for the entire plan, but they've spent a lot of money since then on legal expenses due to an involved, contested APA permitting process.



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