By Jessica Tuggle
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY -- Some school field trips are to amusement parks or museums, but last week students from Sebastian Elementary School visited the Indian River Mosquito Control in Vero Beach for a lesson on mosquito monitoring from the experts.
Pat Morgan, an arbovirus technician, and other staff at the mosquito control led the girls making up Rose Brickles' fifth-grade class on a tour around the facility on 41st Street, showing them mosquito traps, sentinel chickens, adulticide trucks, research laboratories and more.
Jayme Siegfried said her favorite part of the tour was seeing the chickens and learning that they can be the first sign of mosquitos carrying diseases.
Maritza Zuniga said looking at the laboratory equipment was very interesting.
At the school, they have microscopes they use during the year, but nothing as powerful as what the mosquito control has, said Ms. Brickles, who is also Mr. Morgan's daughter.
"In the microscope I saw a big, hairy mosquito. You could see the little hairs coming off of the body. And we learned only the female mosquitos bite," Maritza said.
The field trip experience isn't the first encounter Ms. Brickles' students have had with the insect, often dubbed Florida's state bird. Throughout the year, they study and learn about mosquitos in their classroom, and even conduct hands-on experiments, Mr. Morgan said.
"We've built them a weather station and they've tracked mosquitos and recording their findings and built a website, too," he said. "One of them told me that there was a question on the FCAT about the life cycle of a mosquito. Hopefully, they got that question right."
The Indian River County Mosquito District, established in 1925, was the first mosquito control district in Florida and the second in the nation, behind New Jersey.
"We blazed the trail for a lot of stuff. If you read up on mosquito control history, it won't be before long that you will find Indian River," he said.
And to this day, people from other states and even other countries around the world communicate with the Indian River Mosquito Control staffers. From them, they learn problem-solving, new technologies and techniques for keeping the mosquito population and the human population on good terms.
The county mosquito control is divided into three sub-programs: adult mosquito control, evidenced by spray trucks; permanent control, carried out by depositing larvicide in the large salt marshes along the Indian River Lagoon to control breeding; and disease surveillance through trapping and dissecting mosquitos and monitoring chickens for diseases.
For more information about county mosquito control, call (772) 562-2393 or visit www.irmosquito.com.