Once they become active swarms could be mistaken for something short of science fiction. On the bright side, midges don’t bite, they’re not poisonous and typically don’t spread disease in the region – but they are pesky.
As a result of this natural phenomenon, the City of Sanford’s Public Works Department, Streets and Stormwater Division, led by Superintendent Russ Sheibenberger, and its partnership with Volusia County help to manage the insect’s natural behavior.
The midge is classified by state government as a nuisance insect. Government agencies are not as enthusiastic to put chemicals in the air for midges as they are to putting chemicals in the air to control mosquitoes, which bite and have the potential to carry disease.
The city has an annual agreement with Volusia County for them to do testing and to larvicide the waters of Lake Monroe’s 9,406 acres. The city performs fogging (also known as spraying) in the evenings and early mornings during this time to help control their breeding. The water level and temperature of Lake Monroe play a major role in the hatching of the eggs.
A staff person from the Public Works Department attends annual one-week training in conjunction with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) and the University of Florida, to become licensed to administer the chemicals. In addition, the chemicals are safely stored at the Public Works Complex.
The city adheres to strict guidelines set forth by FDACS to justify, record, and maintain each episode of fogging and larviciding adult midges. There are restricted non-fogging zones mandated by FDACS. For example, there is no spraying near organic gardens or honeybee hives and fogging done must be at night.
Annually, Seminole County holds a “rodeo.” During the rodeo, each city within Seminole county, brings their fogging equipment to have it calibrated so the equipment releases the correct amount of pesticide.
In order to justify fogging and quantify the amount of fogging, the city’s Public Works Department sets sticky traps along the riverfront from Virginia Avenue to the Zoo. Each trap consist of thirty-six, 2 x 2 squares.
Once the traps are set city staff will inspect, analyze and determine through an average count of insects if fogging is justified. For that trapping period, if the amount of midges is minimal, fogging will not occur.
Nature and the climate are unpredictable, resulting in the population of midges being unpredictable. Midges love stagnant water and citizens love summertime; therefore, to help curtail the midge’s behavior, the city’s Public Works Department recommends each resident be proactive by keeping their yard and or place of business free of breeding areas by emptying all buckets or other items that can hold water.
Midges are also characteristically drawn to bug zappers, and can be warded off with over-the-counter insect repellant. Since they’re attracted to light, residents are encouraged to draw their blinds at night, keep their screens securely shut and turn off lights that aren’t being used.
Public Works also uses methods to deter midges from swarming the shore by installing shields over the streetlights along the Riverwalk. Implemented by the city, the shields dim the light with the intention to draw the insects to brighter solar powered lights located on barges that float far out on the river.
By sharing in the responsibilities during midge season, citizen and visitors can enjoy the breathtaking view of Lake Monroe and evenings along the splendid city amenity known as the Riverwalk.
If you have any questions about midge control, please contact the Public Works Department at 407-688-5080 or visit the city’s website at www.sanfordfl.gov.
Lisa Mosca, MPA, is a Public Information Officer in the Office of the City Manager in the City of Sanford. If you would like to submit a question to Lisa regarding the subjects of the bi-weekly column she can be reached at Lisa.Mosca@sanfordfL.gov.