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Malathion Spraying Resumes as High Winds Die Down : Medfly: Aerial pesticide assault continues after last week's postponement when a storm rolled through the area.


Despite blustery winds and the threat of another postponement, state helicopters sprayed malathion over a 16-square-mile quadrant of eastern Camarillo on Monday night in a continuing effort to eradicate Medflies in this county.

Because state regulations prevent the application of the pesticide if winds exceed 10 m.p.h., state officials had worried that they would have to abort their mission for the second time in two weeks.

But by 9:30 p.m., half an hour after the scheduled takeoff time, winds had dropped below 8 m.p.h. and three helicopters left Camarillo Airport for four hours of low-level spraying of a sticky mixture of corn syrup and the malathion pesticide.

"We had some real concerns this morning about the winds," said Larry Hawkins, a spokesman for the state Cooperative Medfly Project.

Last Wednesday, agriculture officials called off a planned third application of the mixture when a fast-moving Gulf of Alaska storm rolled through the area. Officials rescheduled the spraying for Monday night when dry, clear skies were predicted.

Before the flights, Hawkins had said that 8 to 9 m.p.h. winds would force the helicopters to alter spraying patterns to avoid an unwanted drift of the pesticide.

"The pilots will move over a couple of flight lanes if needed so as to prevent any unnecessary drift," he said. "We will be constantly feeding them information on wind velocity and direction. If at any point the wind exceeds 10 m.p.h., they'll return to the airport and go on standby."

As 15 to 20 m.p.h. winds whipped the county Monday, officials said they feared a second delay in spraying, because that could damage the effectiveness of malathion. The pesticide was first sprayed Oct. 12, then again two weeks later.

"We are at a critical point in the schedule," said W. Earl McPhail, the county's agriculture commissioner. "As the flies emerge from their pupal stage, we want to make sure there's bait out there to attract them. We don't want to take any chances."

An 86-square-mile quarantine zone was established after Medflies were discovered Sept. 29 near St. John's Seminary. So far, 63 of the pests have been discovered, but there has not been a new find since Oct. 6.

Officials plan to continue applying the pesticide until early next year--or until three life cycles of the crop-destroying pest have been completed.

Members of GASP (Group Against Spraying People) met the pesticide-laden helicopter squadron at the airport Monday night, again protesting the operation by carrying placards in opposition.

"We are just praying that the winds stay high," spokesman Leonard Mehlmauer said.

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