GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

June 14, 2013

Plum Island steps up fight against greenheads

By Mac Cerullo
Staff Writer

---- — Greenheads, those nasty, pesky flies that have tainted many a summer beach visit or picnic here on Cape Ann, will at least not be invading Plum Island this summer.

Funding for the traps that traditionally keep the notorious pests under control have been secured.

The Newbury Board of Selectmen approved a measure Tuesday night to allocate $5,000 to greenhead control. The move followed public outcry over the revelation that the traps would not be put out this year and actually hadn’t been funded at all for three years.

“What we decided to do for this year is we have money available in our Board of Health expense account resulting in the changes in the operation of the transfer station,” Town Administrator Tracy Blais said. “So we’re going to take $5,000 from that account and transfer it for the greenhead program.”

As for next year, Blais said there would be a request for an additional greenhead appropriation for next spring at this fall’s annual Town Meeting, and the town will likely continue funding greenhead traps in the years to follow as well.

“As long as the board continues to vote in favor of participation, yes,” Blais said.

Greenheads are a particularly vicious type of fly that hatches in the marsh in early July and survives for about three weeks. The large flies use razor-sharp incisors to cut flesh, making their bites particularly painful. They are also aggressive, often swarming over people and animals.

The ubiquitous wooden boxes that capture the flies function like a lobster trap and take advantage of the greenhead’s tendency to bite the exposed underbelly of animals like deer and cattle.

Ideally, a greenhead will land on the underside of the box, and the light shining through the top will compel it to move farther inside. Once there, the flies are unable to escape the way they came in. Over the years, the boxes have proven to be effective at reducing overall greenhead populations.

The recent quarrel over the boxes started a couple of weeks ago when Plum Islanders heard that the state wasn’t going to be installing the traps this year. Residents were irate over the prospect of heavy greenhead activity, and local businesses were worried that the flies would hurt their business by scaring off tourists.

As it turned out, selectmen actually cut funding for the boxes in 2011, but Northeast Massachusetts Mosquito Control put the boxes out each of the past two summers, due to a misunderstanding. Their decision not to put the boxes out again this year was the first time residents noticed anything was different.

With the funds secured, Blais said she would immediately contact Northeast Massachusetts Mosquito Control so that the boxes can be installed before the greenhead season begins next month. Blais said she expects the boxes will be set up quickly, most likely within the next week or two.

In addition to the municipal funds, the town will also have extra funds raised by Plum Island Beachcoma Restaurant at its fundraiser last weekend. Gregg Pugh, the restaurant’s owner, planned the fundraiser after he learned that the traps wouldn’t be installed this year, and he said he was able to raise enough money to purchase 45 traps.

“The feedback was great, everyone had a good time, people were appreciative,” Pugh said.

Pugh said the restaurant also raised about $500 on top of its goal, and that money would be donated to PITA Hall. The rest of the money raised by the Beachcoma will be put into a fund for future greenhead expenditures, Blais said.