The Brandon Buzz

A tribute to Art Doty

Art Doty

Art Doty was indeed the father of mosquito control in the Otter Creek valley. During the early 70s, the Lake Dunmore /Fern lake Association had been doing some mosquito control, albeit primitive by modern standards. The group involved in the spraying asked Art if he would be interested in taking over the project. He agreed and in 1978 formed the Insect Control District consisting of the towns of Brandon, Leicester, and Salisbury (BLS). The BLS had two representatives from each of the towns. The equipment he inherited was a sprayer that put out a stream of pesticide, he said it was like using a howitzer to kill a sparrow (the District now uses ultra-low volume misting foggers that use minimal amounts of pesticide).

Art recalled that he knew nothing about mosquito control, and so he enlisted the help of the state entomologist Jon Turmel. Over the years they became fast friends, and Art often referred to Jon as his second son because they spent so much time together. Jon, Art, and Paul Doty spent many hours in the wetlands of the Otter Creek floodplains, sampling and identifying the mosquito populations. Over 45 species were found. The Dotys – Art, Paul, Donna – and John Trumel were truly the pioneers of mosquito control in our valley. John soon realized that the mosquito populations could never be controlled with adulticides alone. Larvicides had become available in the early 80’s. Larvicides prevent the mosquito larvae from maturing and thus kill the mosquitoes before they become adults.  However the cost of the larvicide and aerial applications was a problem.

In 1989, following several summers of dry weather, there was a tremendous hatch of mosquitoes in the Otter Creek valley flood plains. Responding to a call from a resident of the Lakes District, Art went down to assess the situation. It was a fairly dark night. As Art approached the cottage, he could see a dimly lit doorway.  Art recalls asking the woman to put on the lights so he could see. She responded, “The lights are on.” Art realized the screens were so thick with mosquitoes that they were blocking the light!

At that time Art was also a lobbyist in Montpelier for the Credit Bureau Association and he knew his way around Montpelier. He contacted Governor Madeline Kunin and invited her to come down to observe the extent of the mosquito infestation that was affecting the tourist industry. She came, and on June 14 was inundated by swarms of mosquitoes. The moment made national TV news across the country, and Brandon became “the Mosquito capital of the U.S.” On returning to Montpelier, she convened the Emergency Finance Board, which appropriated $100,000 for mosquito control and thus, thanks to Art’s ingenuity, the larvicide program was launched.

The 1990 the Vermont legislature approved the Mosquito act and appropriated $140,000 annually for Mosquito control, thanks to the initiative of our representative Bob Wood. From 1990 to 2006 everything went smoothly and the funding was adequate. During this time the Agency of Agriculture, which controls the spending, permitted a carryover of the funds for the larvicide program, unused in the dryer years but available in the wetter  years; the flexibility was very helpful. The larvicide program involved aerial applications of the product, and Art employed Dick Quesnel to spread the larvicide. Dick ran a fixed wing agriculture spraying business that could also spread the larvicide. His system was much less costly and could treat smaller areas than the current helicopter delivery.

Art retired from his business in 1998 and began spending his winters in Florida and summers in Nova Scotia.  After an absence of about twelve years, Art and Donna returned the local area to be closer to their grandchildren.  Art was quickly engaged in several community activities including model railroading at the Compass Center in Brandon, engaging visitors at the Stephen Douglass visitor center in Brandon and mentoring several young men in the area.  But his concern for insect control never left his thoughts.  The risks they posed to economic development through tourism, the general discomfort to the public and the health risks to some were always on his mind.

Thus the BLSG was fortunate that Art Doty resumed his engagement with the District.  At age 83 he continued to be a “man who made a difference” and he was not shy about it.  He quickly grasped the funding challenges facing the District.  He was planning a trip to Montpelier to meet with Governor Scott to advocate for improved and more flexible funding for larvicide based mosquito control.  Most recently, Art was investigating and championing the idea of using drones for surveillance and treatment and was arranging a demonstration of the drones by a supplier.Let us consider these efforts a legacy that Art has left for us to finish.

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