Land trust hosts tire slicing demo aimed at reducing mosquito population

By FRANCES MIZE

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 05-24-2024 5:31 PM

NORWICH — As warmer, wetter weather has engorged Vermont’s mosquito population, a government-owned tire slicer is showing up in Norwich to offer some relief.

Old, discarded tires are used by many farmers to weigh down tarps covering feed mounds as they mete out silage to their livestock. At the Upper Valley Land Trust’s Brookemeade Conservation Area on Turnpike Road, at which volunteers grow produce for local food pantries, tires hold black plastic in place over garden beds to kill and keep out weeds.

But the tires — cheap, and in car-centric, rural New England, available in excess — invite in mosquitoes. 

“They collect a lot of water and become a breeding ground,” said Cassie Bernyk, a volunteer coordinator with the land trust who manages work at the organization’s garden. “It’s a little out of hand, how buggy it can get.”

The friendliness to the insects is of special concern as mosquitoes in every county are more regularly testing positive for potentially fatal diseases, such as the West Nile Virus. 

So Bernyk was glad to see that in the fall, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture purchased a tire slicer.

The tool, which the agency has been taking on the road, cuts out the sidewalls and eliminates tread so the tire doesn’t fill up with water and mosquitoes feel less at home.

It also makes the tires easier to move around, she said.

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“They’re pretty bulky, and it can be hard to ask our volunteers to lug them around everywhere,” Bernyk said. “A lot of them are retired.”

Bernyk has arranged a tire slicing demonstration at Brookmeade with the agency to get the word out. There are several dairy farms — big users of tires — with land trust conservation easements on them. Attendees will get a chance to cut into some tires, and use the machine themselves. 

“We’re hoping to use this event as a showcase, so local farmers know this resource is available to them,” she said. 

The event is scheduled for Wednesday, May 29 at 1 p.m. at the Brookmeade Conservation Area, at 595 Turnpike Road in Norwich. 

Frances Mize is a Report for America corps member. She can be reached at fmize@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.