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West Nile Mary

August 22, 2012


City Manager Mary Suhm, whose office controls the budgets at Dallas City Hall

How the West Nile problem was caused by Dallas not replacing progressive city entomologist who retired

FYI from AMY MARTIN Passing along info I received on how the mosquito outbreak was caused by Dallas government not replacing progressive city entomologist who retired and how he’s back now! I’ve attached a 2010 news article about Mr Becker. You can find Amy Moonlady Martin on Facebook to see her original post.

 For more than four decades, the City of Dallas employed a degreed entomologist named Will Becker, with a team working under him whose sole responsibility was to control the mosquito population in the Dallas metro area. They accomplished this with the proactive, preventative, cost effective, and organic method of keeping urban bodies of water (ponds, drainage ditches, stagnant creeks, unkempt swimming pools) stocked with schools of Gambusia minnows – a small fish that eats mosquito larvae.

 This method was so successful that for 45 years, the need to spray chemical insecticide to control mosquitoes in the Dallas area never arose. After decades of tireless service to the city, Will Becker retired a couple of years ago. In its infinite wisdom, the City of Dallas decided to dissolve Mr. Becker’s department as a cost cutting measure rather than hire a qualified replacement. So the practice of keeping mosquito-friendly bodies of water stocked with larvae eating fish stopped.

 Last year’s extreme drought dried up nearly all of the urban bodies of water in which mosquitoes thrive, and of course, the abundant rainfall in Dallas during the early part of this year refilled all of those ponds, creeks, ditches, and unkempt pools. An ecosystem in which mosquitoes thrive was reintroduced to the Dallas area, but with the notable absence of the Gambusia minnows that eat their larvae.

The result? The Dallas mosquito population exploded uncontrollably, an outbreak of West Nile virus ensued, 16 people are now dead, hundreds more are extremely sick. Millions of dollars have been spent on the reactive, environmentally threatening method of controlling mosquitoes with chemical spray, and Dallasites routinely wake up to the acrid, pungent scent of insecticide in the air. Realizing their error in judgment, City of Dallas officials have begged Will Becker out of retirement, his team has been reassembled, and the tedious process of restocking urban bodies of water with minnows who eat mosquito larvae is underway.

Hopefully, when Mr. Becker re-retires, the city will exercise better judgment in its evaluation of the need for his department to continue its operations. As far as I’m concerned, the people who decided to dissolve it in the first place are guilty of murdering 16 people.

How do I know all this? Will Becker is my uncle – my mom’s brother. And if you’re a Dallasite scared of being bit by a mosquito and tired of inhaling pesticide spray, he’s about to be your hero, though he may never get the public recognition he deserves (and frankly, he’s a humble man who doesn’t want the notoriety.) One of the saddest elements of this story is that you’re hearing it from a South Texas sportscaster on Facebook, and not from a Dallas news outlet. Doesn’t say much for the alleged “journalists” who are employed to keep you apprised of such things, or for the spineless city officials who want to keep the truth behind the West Nile problem hidden from citizens who have the right to know about it. Well….now you know.

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