SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

December 24, 2013

Greenhead traps to take big price leap

By Dave Rogers
Staff Writer

---- — IPSWICH — Communities looking to rid themselves of greenhead flies this summer will likely have to dig a little deeper into their pockets or buy fewer traps.

Northeast Massachusetts Mosquito Control, the agency hired to eradicate the bite-first, ask-questions-later insects, recently announced that prices for setting and maintaining traps will increase.

Ipswich is one of five communities that participate in the North Shore Greenhead Fly Control Project, which is administered by Northeast Massachusetts Mosquito Control. The other communities are Saugus, Newburyport, Newbury and Salisbury. In recent years, Gloucester, Essex and Rowley dropped out of the project, according to NMMC director Jack Card.

Greenhead flies may be small, but they pack a painful bite. They have a mouth that resembles miniature pruning shears, and they can bite through tight clothing.

Crane Beach in Ipswich is a popular spot for greenheads. The Trustees of Reservations has a section for greenhead flies updates on its Daily Conditions Web page for the beach.

Each year before the Fourth of July, NMMC places traps mostly inside salt marshes in areas of low vegetation adjacent to waterways. During the trapping season, motorists traveling north on Route 1 in Newbury can see multiple traps, which resemble black wooden boxes, planted inside salt marshes.

At its monthly meeting recently, held in Salisbury Town Hall, the mosquito control board received a revised estimated cost per trap from Card. According to Card, the estimated price to install, retrieve and maintain traps will jump to between $72.95 and $92.42 per trap, up from $52.50 per trap, which has been the set fee for several years. The wide swing of estimates relates to different building materials. Wooden traps are more expensive, and repair costs are higher; plastic traps, made from recycled barrels, cost less.

Card’s figures were discussed briefly by the five-member board of commissioners, but no vote was taken. Commissioners asked for another month to digest the proposal. The commission is next expected to meet Jan. 15 inside PITA hall on Plum Island. Card also stressed that he looking to phase out the wooden boxes partially because of cost, but also because their estimated life span, about five years, is years less than that of plastic traps, which can last up to eight years.

While communities are expected to pay for the traps, NMMC has gotten into the habit of subsidizing out of its own budget communities that don’t have the funds to pay for as many traps as they would like. At yesterday’s meeting, the board offered the town of Newbury as an example. According to the board, Newbury owes NMMC $4,500 for traps but is expected to reimburse the agency by spring 2014.

As part of its discussion yesterday, the board said it would re-evaluate its policy about extending monetary help to greenhead communities. That could mean fewer traps and more greenheads for communities who are financially not in the position to adjust to the new price.

In all, 32 communities, mostly in Essex County, take advantage of Northeast Massachusetts Mosquito Control services.