We didn’t get a hard freeze last winter and there has been an awful lot of rain so far this spring. It stands to reason that the bugs are going to be bad this summer, spreading illness and discomfort wherever they go.
Mosquito-borne viruses, including West Nile Virus, are a serious health threat to livestock as well as humans. We take many steps to see that our horses are vaccinated for the virus and that flies and mosquitoes don’t cause them undue stress. We try not to leave buckets lying about or anything else that might hold stagnant water so as to discourage mosquito larvae. In years past, we’ve gone so far as to erect a purple martin house hoping to encourage a flock to make our yard their home and eat all the bugs that they could catch. (All we got was starlings so we gave up.) It never occurred to me, however, that a birdbath was a bad idea. But officials in New York City have started cracking down on them.
A New York City Health Department ordinance has resulted in the city’s issuing of $300 tickets to people with “standing water” on their property. This includes birdbaths. A regulation against “stagnant” water has been on the books for a long time but the health code was amended last year. It now explicitly makes landlords liable and broadens the law to including “standing water” rather than “stagnant water”. Authorities are further empowered to not only prevent “the breeding or harborage” of mosquitoes, but also to prevent “conditions conducive” to their breeding.
I'm not sure I agree with a $300 bird bath fine but I do think it's important to worry about mosquito-borne viruses. We have two bird baths at our house ... one in the front yard and one in the back yard … but it’s never occurred to me that they might be “breeding grounds” or "harborage" for disease carrying insects. Perhaps I’ll take a cue from New York City and rethink the situation. Clearly, it’s better for one’s health to have dirty birds flying around.
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