It’s 5:30 p.m. and senior Eric Hilton is dancing in the high-school quad. His hands jerk around and he slaps himself—first on the neck, then on the ankle and again on his arm.
But his dance isn’t exactly voluntary.
Hilton, like many students and faculty who have stayed on campus after 4 p.m., is fighting off mosquitoes.
“Oh, my God, they’re so annoying!” Hilton said.
Although mosquitoes have been a complaint for years, many students think they’ve reached unacceptable levels.
In fact, 71 percent of high schoolers said that mosquitoes are a problem on campus.
“They’re demon creatures,” senior Maya Kuppermann said. “They’re even indoors, so it’s hard to escape.”
Jay Holman, director of the physical plant, said the maintenance crew makes regular trips around campus to get rid of stagnant water where mosquitoes breed.
And despite the complaints, Holman said he won’t make further attempts to control the mosquito population.
In early February, he said he noticed an increase of mosquitoes and considered notifying the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District.
But Holman said he felt the higher mosquito levels didn’t last long enough to merit a notification.
“In order to take action with Vector Control,” he said, “I’d have to feel like (the campus) was the breeding ground for mosquitoes.”
Any further attempt the maintenance staff itself could take to control mosquitoes might require pesticide application, he said. And to do that, he must post notices explaining the chemical usage unless the product is classified as “EcoEXEMPT.” These products are typically comprised of organic ingredients.
In all forms of pesticides, Holman opts for EcoEXEMPT products for safety reasons, and he asks the school’s exterminating service, Western Exterminator, to do the same. So products such as rat poison and Raid insecticides are not used on campus.
“I have a third grader here,” Holman said, “and I don’t want her playing on a lawn that has been sprayed with pesticides. We’re literally using rosemary oil and wintergreen oil (as insecticide and repellent).”
Holman said he hasn’t seen a major increase in mosquito numbers this year except for in early February.
Some students have asked whether electric insect control systems, which attract flying insects with black light and kill them with low voltage, are a possibility,
But a University of Notre Dame study concluded that so-called “bug zappers” are marginally effective and don’t meaningfully lessen mosquitoes, according to www.mosquito.org.
There is also concern that the electric shock can cause a mist of insect parts that can transmit disease.
So students who seek a fix to the mosquito invasion will have to look elsewhere.
Junior Melissa Vasquez doesn’t think the mosquitoes are a major problem in the first place.