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6/22/2021 - History of Mosquito Control in New Jersey

Below is a summary, written in 1993, “The History of Mosquito Control in New Jersey” by Judy Hansen

Mosquitoes and New Jersey have been synonymous since the 1600's when the settlements and towns began. The mosquito situation was well appreciated in early times.

To quote a few early settlers:

Max Schalish speaking of New Sweden near the mouth of the Delaware River in 1627 said, "Swedes built a fort called Mockeborg, because of the numberless mosquitoes infesting the region."

In 1748 Peter Kalm wrote, "The gnats which are very troublesome at night here, are called mosquitoes. They are exactly like the gnats in Sweden, only somewhat smaller. In the daytime or at night they come into the house and when people have gone to bed, they begin their disagreeable humming, approach nearer to the bed, and at last suck up so much blood that they can hardly fly away. Their bite causes blisters on people with delicate skin.

Dr. William Currie of Philadelphia in 1792 said: "Me flat and hy parts of this State (New Jersey) which are very numerous are infested with myriads of mosquitoes which give intolerable annoyance to man and beast. Their bites often occasion an Erysipelas, both painful and dangerous. These insects, however, are never observed when the mercury is below the 60 degree. I do not know the degree of cold which renders bugs inactive, but have been kept awake by them at Salem as late as the tenth of November."

Thus it appears that in early days from 1637 to 1850 the pest mosquitoes, undoubtedly salt marsh species, were extremely and seriously troublesome throughout the entire coastal area of the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware bay.

In 1906, the first law passed, which specifically recognized mosquito abatement as a necessary function of the State. This law made it the responsibility for the Director of the Agricultural Experiment Station, through an assistant appointed by him, to investigate and make recommendations regarding the problem.

In 1912, an amendment to this law delegated this authority to counties within the State and provided for special commissions for the purpose.

As a result of the 1912 amendment to the mosquito laws, County Mosquito Extermination Commissions were formed in 20 of 21 counties in the State over the next several years.

In 1913, the need arose to organize mosquito control workers in New Jersey - resulting in the founding of the New Jersey Mosquito Extermination Association. The Associated Executives of Mosquito Control Work in New Jersey was officially established in 1921 for the purpose of coming together on a monthly basis to discuss and help solve problems encountered in all New Jersey counties (this association still meets monthly today).

After World War II, mosquito research and control continued with the use of ditching and spraying of DDT. Reading back through the Minutes of County Meetings and the New Jersey Mosquito Control Association Proceedings, it was evident that money was in short supply, but Commissions for the most part, showed a continued sustained growth; counties with the most ratables showing the most growth.

Research at the Experiment Station continued because of the clause in the mosquito laws requiring the Director to approve the Plans and Estimates of the County Commissions.

An outbreak of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in August of 1959 resulted in 34 human deaths and hundreds of horses lost, and a major loss of tourism dollars at the Jersey shore. A large infusion of money and personnel resulted on into the 1960's and up until the beginning of a strong environmental movement in the early 1970's.

Things began to change, DDT was no longer allowed and we had to look for new chemicals with little or no residual with the least effect on the environment. Our water management on salt marshes began to change from grid ditching to a technique called Open Marsh Water Management or TRISH, Tidal Restoration of Salt Hay Impoundments. Adulticiding and larviciding methods, formulations, and equipment changed and became more conservative. The county unions started to hire biologists, entomologists and those trained in mosquito taxonomy and ecology. We were called upon more and more to explain our actions. came into being (the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, Rodenticide Act) followed by Wetlands Acts, Clean Air, Clean Water and all the many regulations we have today. We needed to be better trained and better educated. Research and public education were a musts.

We have survived all the changes. However, some have fared better than others. Major tourism dollars is still a strong impetus for mosquito control as well as disease potential and public use of outdoor recreational facilities; including their own back yards. The tolerance level for mosquito annoyance has decreased over the years. Most people will tolerate only a few mosquito bites before they want something done about it.

The full article can be located here

Another small fact about NJ mosquito control.

The John B. Smith Legacy

New Jersey is the only state that mandates its state land-grant university to research and recommend solutions for mosquito control. This is the result of the vision of John B. Smith. Smith, then a lawyer, was sitting in court one day when he realized that he was more interested in watching the flies on the courthouse wall than the case in which he was involved. That's when he decided to give up his law practice and follow his passion. When Rutgers formed a Department of Entomology in 1899, Smith was hired as the State Entomologist.

Smith was a dynamic academic. He published many volumes on insect pests, but mosquitoes remained his primary interest. Responding to complaints about biting mosquitoes in New Brunswick, Smith realized that the offenders were not produced nearby, but were from the salt marshes, which were miles away. He recognized that these mosquitoes were flying long distances from their larval habitat and therefore posed a statewide problem.

Smith went to the legislature in Trenton to propose a statewide coordinated effort for mosquito control. He even proposed that, with his plan in place, New Jersey would be able to develop a tourism industry at the New Jersey shore. The legislature was incredulous, and, the story goes, openly laughed at his proposal. But Smith went ahead with a small project in the Meadowlands, and demonstrated that mosquitoes invading Jersey City could be controlled by managing the salt marshes. After his success in Jersey City, his fame grew and his services were increasingly in demand.

More information can be found here


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