Preparation for mosquito season begins in March. Rhode Island Red chickens play a special part in mosquito control efforts.
Glenn Stokes, President and Owner of Mosquito Control Contractors, Inc. says these fluffy babies known as sentinel chickens, develop antibodies against the three main viruses carried by mosquitoes, West Nile, Saint Louis and Western Equine Encephalitis. Once fully grown, the chickens are housed with volunteers across Acadiana. From May 1st to the end of October, sentinel blood samples are tested every week.
Stokes says “We know the week that it occurred and where it occurred because the chicken is in one cage all season and if it develops antibodies, we know. Then we designate that as a West Nile hot spot.”
Thanks to these chickens, virus hot spots can be treated to prevent human contraction and for that reason, these birds are very high maintenance.
Stokes says, “They get a special food with antibiotics and fresh water every day and we keep the temperature just right.”
Mosquito season peaks around August and September and it’s Stokes’ job to keep that under control by treating the water, a breeding site. He treats where the adult mosquitoes are and they use the sentinels to determine cases of West Nile. Stokes has grown attached to this mosquito control method and he’s not the only one.
He says, “A lot of volunteers they become attached and they actually keep them as pets.”
Since 2002, the number of baseline mosquitoes in Lafayette Parish has decreased by 85%.