|West Nile on our Western Shore?
Ah, the marshy regions of Chesapeake Country: warm and wet and full of mosquitoes - with maybe West Nile virus? Not so far, say local experts. Despite ideal conditions, on-going testing has found no West Nile virus in our area.
The virus is hunted in two ways. One is mosquitoes. The other is chickens.
Mosquitoes are sampled four times weekly in a battery-operated light trap baited with carbon dioxide, an aroma as irresistible to mosquitoes as chocolate to chocoholics.
The fourth sample is collected from a gravid trap, a container of polluted water that attracts mosquitoes looking for a cozy home to start a family. But domestic bliss is soon disrupted: The mosquitoes are sucked up into a collection net. In Anne Arundel County, these traps are located at Laurel and Sandy Point. In Calvert, they're near Prince Frederick, Cove Point and the northern part of Huntingtown.
All the adult mosquitoes caught over 12 hours are sent via Maryland's Department of Agriculture to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in Baltimore.
On the chicken side, sentinel chicken flocks are sampled biweekly, with blood drawn and sent on for testing. One flock does its work in central Calvert County within four miles of Prince Frederick. Two other flocks are in Anne Arundel County at Laurel and Sandy Point. These three flocks are among 14 being monitored in Maryland.
A different kind of mosquito research is done with landing rate counts. These studies monitor nuisance mosquito populations. Those who do it should get extra pay for baring arms in the service of the state.
Spraying has nearly doubled this summer, not because of the virus but because of all the rain. All mosquitoes breed more in damp weather. They can develop from egg to adult in about five days.
But not all mosquitoes are associated with West Nile virus. Tiger mosquitoes, for instance, are getting a bad rap because there are so many around this year. Asian tigers, with those striped legs and erratic flight patterns, are innocent though obnoxious.
The mosquito most often associated with West Nile virus is the northern house mosquito. Despite the fancy moniker of Culex pipiens, this critter is a local yokel here in Maryland. This bad guy loves polluted water. His home, sweet home, is in catch basins, sewage, storm drains or stagnant water high in organic content.
But he's not yet carrying West Nile virus. "I think the reports from New York have pretty much saturated the media and the air waves," says Wilson Freeland, Calvert County's mosquito control program coordinator. "Sometimes I think it's been blown a little out of proportion to the threat it is."
Still, the local experts also have bad news. The West Nile virus could come to Maryland in the blood of an infected bird or animal. Crows have low resistance to the new virus. Blue jays and sparrows are also at risk. That's why, come autumn, the Chesapeake mosquito experts will be closely watching the bird migrations.
So we have no problem at the moment? Wrong. We do. It's in the containers that trap water around our home. In our area, blessed with beautiful decks and gardens, the next generation of mosquitoes teems in flower pots and saucers. Birdbaths. Tarps spread over our boats and cars, with tiny wrinkles holding just enough water for Mama Mosquito to start a small brood. Gutters, open trash cans, recycling bins. If infected mosquitoes take up residency there, we will have something to fear.
Patricia Ferrao of Anne Arundel's Mosquito Control Section is "big" on the need for efforts by communities rather than individuals: "You may not have standing water, but you could have neighbors who might be harboring and breeding mosquitoes. So you have to get out and talk to your neighbor to help implement a neighborhood clean-up. Neighborhood clean-up must be implemented at the same time."
At the same time? With so many already time-challenged commuters?
No, just concerted effort. "If a number of home and property owners in an area become conscious of water-holding containers because people in the neighborhood are experiencing mosquito problems, working together to get rid of these containers can minimize the mosquito problem," says the Anne Arundel entomologist.
She points to the state's encouragement of "SWARM patrols" as one good way to do this. SWARM is not a human equivalent of mosquito attack strategy but short for Standing Water Attracts Risky Mosquitoes. "The Maryland Department of Agriculture mosquito control section helps homeowners and community associations take the initiative and start a neighborhood patrol. It's an excellent way to get to know your neighbor and to help each other in getting rid of mosquitoes," Ferrao says.
Bay Weekly welcomes first-time contributor Patricia Kirby, a University of Maryland University College distance instructor who lives in North Beach, where she also does freelance instructional design, research, and translation, editing and writing.
With Tax-Free Washing,
A Cleaner Bay Begins in the Laundry
Power to the people. That's what a July 1 law promises Maryland consumers who buy energy-efficient appliances.
Under the Clean Energy Incentive Program, the state repeals its sales tax on washing machines and heating and cooling equipment that bear the Energy Star label, which is awarded by the federal Department of Energy to the most energy-efficient products on the market. Next July 1, air conditioners and refrigerators achieve the same favored-appliance status.
No sales tax translates to an immediate $40 to $50 average savings. Later savings come in the form of cheaper energy bills. Maryland is the first state to take such action.
"No sales tax? I will support the energy program, or any government program for that matter, that will reduce or remove the sales tax," swears John Verdin Sr. of Calvert County.
Carmelita Ataviado, also of Calvert County, agrees: "You only buy a washing machine or an air conditioner once or twice in your lifetime, so definitely I will avail myself of this tax break the next time I need these appliances."
But Dan Myers, Sears' Prince Frederick sales associate, cautions against unbridled optimism. Though he calls the new energy law a good campaign, he says price may work against it.
"People always want a good deal. They look at prices first, quality second, features third and energy-efficiency figures last - if at all," he says.
Myers says the best washers are front-loading models (similar to what you see in Laundromats) because they use less energy and water yet have a bigger washing capacity than the top-loading machines. Sears' top-of-the-line front-loader, a Kenmore, sells for $999.
He's seen only one top-loading model that has earned an Energy Star. A Kenmore, it sells for $600. The best-selling top-loader with no Energy Star bears a price tag of $399.
This substantial price difference may be pushing energy conservation to the back burner, Myers says, noting that the store sells one front-loader for every 15 top-loaders it sells.
Economy up front, he cautions, may not be the best long-term bargain. "They may cost more initially, but in the long run these machines will save you money," Myers says.
Another drawback is the limited number of appliances - at least for the moment - that bear the Energy Star label. For example, of the 25 air-conditioner models Sears Prince Frederick carries, only two wear the Energy Star label. Most appliances meet government minimum energy conservation standards, Myers said.
When the best things in life are electric appliances, they're not free. Energy Star comes at a price.
In Eastport, Sign of the Times
"Communities and neighborhoods have their own personalities, just like people do," observes Ellen Moyer, Annapolis alderman and Eastport resident. "Eastport just has a little bit more independent, fun-loving personality."
Home to watermen, boat yards, and taverns, the Annapolis neighborhood of Eastport has always enjoyed a decidedly saltier flavor than the rest of the town. In wealth and status, Eastport historically has played second fiddle to the gentrified downtown sector across Spa Creek. But in community pride, Eastport has been second to none.
Last Saturday, the Eastport Business Association officially unveiled a new Eastport welcome sign that was two years in the making. The modest occasion was one more reminder of the tiny neighborhood's fierce pride.
Given that downtown Annapolis already had a welcome sign - located, coincidentally, across the street from the new Eastport sign - the business association decided that Eastport needed its own. "An Eastport sign was important to give Eastport a little more identity of its own, so that when you drove over the bridge, you weren't leaving someplace, you were entering someplace," said Paul Meyer, association vice president.
The sign was two years in the making. A sign committee including representatives from the neighborhood's three major civic groups - the business association, Eastport Civic Association, and Maritime Republic of Eastport- deliberated for months on a design all three groups could support.
Working on the sign were Eastport artisans Cindy Fletcher-Holden, who produced the visual design; Howard Rogers of the Raven Maritime Studio, who constructed, carved, and painted the mahogany slab; Marshall Lerner of J. Gordon Associates, who provided the weather-proof finish; Stratton Semmes, who designed the landscaping; Stewart Landscaping, who installed the plantings; Lance Curran, who erected the mounting; and Peter DeSilva of Viking Yachts, who gave the sign a home.
In contrast to the years of collaboration and countless hours of work, the ceremony itself was short and sweet. One of the speakers was former business association president Andie McCullars, widely credited as the individual whose persistence was crucial to making the sign a reality. The sign, said McCullars, "is symbolic of how Eastport, with all its citizens, can come together and pull together to make it happen."
After the speeches, business association president Carey Kirk and Annapolis Mayor Dean Johnson officially revealed the sign to the public by releasing balloons that had been tied in front of it. Kirk then christened the sign with a ceremonial splash of water.
The glistening sign exceeded everyone's expectations. "Gorgeous, just gorgeous," said Moyer.
"This is a great day in the history of Eastport," said McCullars. And the history continues.
We gotta get rid of the green stuff and fast, my wife said as she nervously peeked through the window. I dont like that much of it being in the house, if you know what I mean. Can you get rid of it tomorrow through your marks downtown? she asked.
I told you, both Marks, along with Tony and Jim, are outta town until next week. How about our neighbors? Maybe we can funnel it through them.
Naw, I think theyre getting wise to us. she said still peering out the window. Besides, they moved a lot of it for us last year. I dont want to push our luck.
I thought for a moment and asked, How about if we just bury it in the backyard until the heats off?
My spouse reeled around and shot me a look. Fortunately I ducked and it only grazed my shoulder. Dont you remember what happened the last time we did that? It came back to haunt us for years! No, youve got to take it downtown today and find someone who will take it off our hands for at least 50 cents on the dollar.
I stuffed the goods into two duffel bags and hauled them out to the car, quickly securing them in the trunk. I returned to the house to get my hat.
Did you launder the stuff? my wife asked.
Yeah, its clean. I said as I headed out to the car. I waved good-bye and aimed my vehicle toward the city, not knowing what sort of desperate individual I would meet who would agree to take that much green off my hands.
Just inside the city limits, I pulled into a run down strip mall and parked along the back lot. I was looking for someone who needed a fast buck and wouldnt start hollering when they saw my merchandise. I waited for an hour when I saw an old, banged up station wagon pull into the spot in front of me. It held four kids and their mother. If anyone could use a little extra dough. it was she.
My plan was to approach her with one of the bags, show her the stuff, and see if she wanted to make a deal. But with four kids in tow, she probably wouldnt want them exposed to such a thing. No, Id wait until she entered the store.
Once she was inside, I slipped out of my car, strolled up next to the station wagon, and peeked inside. I was in luck: One of the kids had left the back door unlocked. Plans changed. I returned to my car, popped the trunk, and grabbed the duffel bags. I lugged them across the lot, opened the wagons left rear door and dumped both bags contents onto the floor. I then covered the stash with an old, olive-green army blanket that was lying on the seat. I rolled the duffel bags up, slipped them under my arm, closed the door, and strolled back to my car, all the while keeping a watchful eye on the stores entrance.
Safe in my car, I turned the key and left an inch of rubber on the pavement as I headed toward the exit. I cut through the city like a hyperactive mouse in a maze, determined to shake anyone off my tail in case I was being followed.
I pulled into my driveway just before dusk and saw my wife waiting at the front door.
Were you followed? she nervously asked. If I was, I gave them the slip in town. I said as I walked toward the house.
Once inside, we both slumped down on the couch and breathed a collective sigh of relief.
How much did you get for it? my spouse inquired.
Nothing. I couldnt bring myself to ask the woman for money.
Well, what did you do with it?
I unloaded it in the womans car when she was in the store. She had four kids, so she can either sell it or use it herself.
My wife looked disappointed but also as if a great weight had been lifted from her shoulders.
I cant do this anymore, she said. I was actually starting to panic having so much of it around. Every year its getting harder and harder to unload. I remember a time when you couldnt produce enough and there was no trouble selling it. Thats it, no more zucchini. Next year, were growing pumpkins.
Way Downstream ...
In Virginia, horseshoe crab fishermen will get no reprieve from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. The 15-state commission refused last week to cancel a federal moratorium that takes effect in September. It was ordered because Virginia refuses to cut quotas on the threatened prehistoric species that is being harvested heavily for bait ...
In Oregon, GOP vice-presidential candidate Dick Cheney last week pointed to a difference between this year's White House aspirants: George W. Bush, he said, would review and possibly rescind many of President Bill Clinton's designations of national monuments in the West. All told, Clinton has created 10 national monuments covering 4 million acres, among them the Sequoia National Monument in California in which 328,000 acres of ancient trees are preserved. Loggers, miners and property-rights advocates object ...
In British Colombia, a group of women, among them 63-year-old Mallory Pred, announced that they will pose nude for a $19.95 calendar to raise money to preserve Saltspring Island. "To be naked is to be vulnerable just as our trees are," Pred said
In Pittsburgh, 84 Lumber Co., one of the nation's largest with 406 retail stores, announced last week that it will phase out sales of wood products from endangered forests by 2003
Our Creature Feature comes from the Pacific Ocean, where the world is turning up the heat on Japan to stop whaling. Even though a ban on commercial whaling went into effect 14 years ago, Japan continues to kill about 500 whales annually - among them the endangered Bryde's whales and minke whales - for what it describes as "scientific research."
Earlier this month, Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, the Democrats' candidate for vice president, requested that the Commerce Department impose sanctions because "Japan is clearly violating the global consensus."