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WES Students Get High-Flying Mosquito Lesson

WES Students Get High-Flying Mosquito Lesson
Flagler Schools

Wadsworth Elementary School was abuzz Thursday morning as the East Flagler Mosquito Control District’s Bell JetRanger III landed in the field adjacent to the campus. The pitch-perfect landing of the chopper capped an educational, entertaining and informative morning in which all six fourth grade classes were instructed on the lifecycle of those pesky—but necessary to our ecosystem—mosquitoes.

The fourth-graders, approximately 150 of them, were invited to the special assembly after participating in this year’s Mosquito Sweaters art contest. Over the winter, Flagler Schools elementary students were invited to color a cartoon drawing of a mosquito and submit their entry. Of all the entries received, the EFMCD selected the design of 9-year-old Cameron Gourd, a student in Ms. Rush’s class whose art teacher is Ms. Curley.

The winner was announced at Thursday’s special assembly. Cameron was clearly surprised by the honor and modestly approached the stage to receive a certificate for his award-winning artwork. His mom proudly sat in the audience, having kept the secret until the big reveal.

Following a presentation by Mosquito Control’s Public Information Specialist Nicole Graves about the lifecycle and other fun facts about mosquitoes, the students were shown jars of mosquito larvae as well as one of their predators that are used in mosquito abatement called mosquitofish. Among the tidbits they learned about mosquitoes is that there are 48 types in Flagler County, which used to be part of Musquito County before it and other areas in Northeast Florida were renamed. There are 90 types of mosquitoes in Florida and 3,600 types worldwide. 

After the informative presentation, the students and their teachers moved outside to the field unaware of what was next. Minutes later pilot Anton “TC” Cunha swooped over the field, made a quick turn and landed the sleek blue helicopter several dozen yards away. His passenger was none other than Wadsworth Principal Paul Peacock, who seemed as delighted as the students about his high-flying entrance.

So why all the fuss over mosquitoes?

Due to a surge in the mosquito population from flooding following last year’s hurricanes Ian and Nicole, aerial spraying of larvicide for mosquitoes in Flagler County has been underway sporadically for the past several months, usually every 30 days or so. (You may have heard the helicopter buzzing above your homes overnight or in the early morning.) 

You might expect that with falling temperatures, mosquitoes would die but, in reality, some simply go into hibernation, thus “the sweaters.” They're actually harder to eliminate than during their active season in the summer, says Mosquito Control’s Graves. 

Each year, the EFMCD asks Flagler Schools elementary schools to participate in its Mosquito Sweaters contest. Last year’s winner hailed from Bunnell Elementary School.

Wadsworth fourth graders got a chance to take photos with their teachers and classmates in front of the helicopter, and those in Ms. Rush’s class each got a chance to sit in the cockpit and get a photo with the pilot.

The one last bit of advice given by Mosquito Control officials was for the students to not to leave their toys outside and to urge their families to keep gutters clean and eliminate standing water around the home so as not to provide a hospitable breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Helicopter hovering above field
Adult exiting helicopter
Adult sitting on ground with students
Adult showing student larvae jar