Profile Q&A with Carl Doud, Midland Co. Mosquito Control

Dr. Carl Doud is the director of Midland County Mosquito Control.  He was hired to that position in 2014 after a career in the military, serving for 15 years in the United States Navy as an entomologist and five years before that in a different role with the Air Force.
Dr. Carl Doud is the director of Midland County Mosquito Control.
Midland, Saginaw, Bay, and Tuscola Counties are the only counties in Michigan with county wide mosquito control abatement programs. There’s good reason. In an article written for “Wing Beats”,  a professional magazine published by the American Mosquito Control Association, Doud and his colleague, Bill Stanuszek of the Saginaw County Mosquito Abatement Commission, pointed out how our region’s topography creates a great habitat for mosquitoes, “Saginaw Valley is the state’s largest drainage basin, formed largely from the action of ice lobes advancing and retreating during glacial periods. This flat, low-lying watershed offers many ideal mosquito habitats.” Doud notes there are other municipalities in Michigan who have mosquito control programs but they hire outside contractors to provide the service.

The front page of the website for Mosquito Control lists their primary objective, “To reduce the risk of mosquito-borne diseases in Midland County. This goal is accomplished through the systematic and timely application of effective and economical mosquito control”. 

Mosquito Control has six full-time employees, with two of those employees receiving a three month layoff over the winter each year. They also have several seasonal  employees including up to 18 field technicians, who work for six months. Mosquito Control is supported by a countywide property tax millage of .40 mills which generates about $1.6 million.  Voters in Midland County first approved a millage in 1982 which led to full time operations beginning  in 1984. Mosquito Control is headquartered in Sanford on M-30, just south of the U-S 10 freeway.

Their job is to cover 528 square miles of the land that makes up Midland County. That includes 60,000 acres of habitat that’s treated with aerial spraying in the spring and another 3,000 acres that’s treated by crews who reach flooded areas on foot. 

Doud is a native of Belton, Missouri. He earned a bachelor’s in biology at what’s now called the University of Central Missouri, a master’s in entomology from Oklahoma State, and a doctorate in entomology from Kansas State. 

Q-What’s the status of this year’s program?

A-The big story is a return to normal somewhat. The pandemic impacted our staffing. Struggling with staffing for our spring program. Didn’t get to as many areas as we traditionally do. Now, we’re back to full staff.  

We get calls about how bad the mosquitoes are. They’re asking, “When are you coming out?”  Our trucks will be out. Now, night time fogging operations are underway.  
Midland County Mosquito Control conducts nighttime fogging.
Q-How can a property owner help?

A-Anything that holds stagnant water will become a mosquito producer. Clean up debris, discarded tires, buckets. Cleaning up your property helps reduce the burden. We do have a tire drive coming up on September 10th. You can call to make an appointment.. We don’t take tires from businesses. Be aware of ponds but the troublesome ones are the areas that flood and then dry up. We’ve been doing this for 40 years. We’re well aware of most of the areas that flood and dry up, but contact us. We want to know where those habitats are. That helps us. If we have an isolated rain, it helps us to identify those areas.

One note about bees, we are aware and want to do our best not to affect pollinators. If you keep bees, contact us and let us know where those hives are. We want to stay at least 300 feet away from them when we’re fogging.

We map every time we get a call about how bad the mosquitoes are. Those data points influence where we do our treatments.

Q-You shared you do treatments in the spring primarily for four to five species of mosquitoes. They lay their eggs one year and then hatch the next spring but some of their eggs remain viable beyond that. These mosquitoes have a single generation. After a rain event that creates standing water, you see a big boost in mosquitoes when the water enables the eggs to hatch. Later, there are multiple species of mosquitoes that hatch out in a few cycles. What do you use for your treatments?

A-The majority of the material that we apply in our spring aerial program is a product that is derived from a soil bacterium (Bti). It’s an ideal pesticide. It is specific to mosquitoes and is applied to standing water. You can go back and find dead mosquito larvae but it doesn’t affect other non-targeted organisms like predaceous insects in aquatic environments. 

The material has several active ingredients that make it difficult for the mosquitoes to develop resistance. The odds of that are much reduced. After we do our treatments, within a couple of days, the toxins break down due to environmental exposure. It doesn’t persist. That material makes up ¾ of the material that we put out.

Midland Co. Mosquito Control's aerial spraying program covers 60,000 acres.
There are other types of material and active ingredients that we use in aquatic environments, specifically catch basins, mostly in the city of Midland. Those operations help to reduce West Nile Virus. It is present in the county. We find it in mosquitoes and birds. We try to reduce the population of mosquitoes that can carry and transmit the virus. The material has a growth inhibitor. The virus cycles between birds and mosquitoes but sometimes it can get into humans and horses.

Q-What’s been the history of mosquitoes in our area?

A-I did some research and I give a talk about the historic problems mosquitoes and malaria were in Michigan and how bad it was for the early settlers, based on accounts from settlers that I found.  We don’t have malaria any longer. We broke that cycle. Just about everybody back then suffered from malaria. People would have bouts of malaria for days and then feel better. It doesn’t cause a lot of death. Malaria was known as the Ague or the fever. Malaria was introduced in North America by Europeans. The area was heavily wooded in the 1800’s. Settlers would get a plot of land, clear trees, build a home, and grow their own food but they’d be out 50% of the time with sickness.
Field technician treats standing water.
Alexis de Tocqueville (a French diplomat, political scientist, historian) visited Michigan in 1831 (when he toured the United States).  He wanted to see the wilderness. He reported the mosquitoes were just horrible. We had more woods and flooded areas back then. 

Q-What purpose do mosquitoes have?

A-In the larval phase, they’re food for other insects and fish. Bats and birds do eat adult mosquitoes but they usually go for larger insects (moths). Mosquitoes cause itching and disease. That’s the reason we’re in business.

Note: To get the latest fogging schedule or to make an appointment for the tire drive in September, call 989-832-8677.

 

Read more articles by Ron Beacom.

Ron Beacom has served as the managing editor of Catalyst Midland since October 2020. He's also a freelance writer for the Midland Daily News and the producer/host of "Second Act: Life at 50 Plus" for WDCQ-Delta College Public Media (PBS). He's the co-producer of two WDCQ documentaries about the Tittabawassee River Disaster in 2020, "Breached! and Breached!2-The Recovery."