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VOL. 129 | NO. 126 | Monday, June 30, 2014


BuzzFree Mosquito Keeps Properties Free of Pests

By Don Wade

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Lisa Thomas was well-aware of how relentless the mosquitoes could be. For several years, her family lived in the Mississippi Delta.

“You couldn’t go out after dark,” she said.

When they lived in Collierville, it wasn’t that mosquitoes were never an issue – but the city did spray and the family didn’t practically live in the woods, so the pests were manageable.

But buying a home in Piperton with dense woods on one side and behind it reminded Thomas of her Delta days. The new home has a pool so they wanted to be outside, but the mosquitoes were making it pretty close to unbearable.

Lee Haag, general manager and part owner of BuzzFree Mosquito, demonstrates the BuzzFree Mosquito System misting operation. 

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

“In any group, I don’t care how many people, I’m the first to get attacked by mosquitoes,” Thomas said. “And the bug spray is horrible, smells horrible.”

Thomas decided to try a different approach and called BuzzFree Mosquito. Now, with a professional system installed that uses a natural insecticide that is released at dawn, dusk and just after her dark, her family’s lifestyle has changed.

“We’re getting full use of (our yard and pool) this summer,” she said.

Lee Haag is general manager and part owner of BuzzFree, which is locally and privately owned. And by necessity, he has become a mosquito expert.

Haag’s earliest memory of the summer pests is of him and his friends riding their bikes behind the Memphis mosquito trucks that spray neighborhoods. The fog was kinda cool.

But Haag is very much a man on a mission now and mosquitoes are his targets.

“They’re definitely pests,” Haag said, noting that West Nile virus-infected mosquitoes were found in Shelby County earlier this month. “They sense our CO2 (the carbon dioxide humans exhale) when we go outside. That’s what attracts them. The females are the only ones that bite –and the reason they bite, for lack of a better term, is they need a blood meal to give them energy to lay the eggs.”

As gross as that may sound, mosquito behavior is, in some ways, hardly unreasonable. They seek shade and relief from the heat, Haag says, adding that, “They’re a lot like us.”

The remote control unit for the BuzzFree Mosquito System.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

But that’s about the only way. In other parts of the world, they carry everything from malaria to yellow fever. In the United States, they carry several forms of encephalitis and chikungunya, which can cause a rash, headache, nausea and joint pain.

Orkin, a national pest-control company, recently released a list of the 20 worst mosquito cities in America. Memphis came in at No. 14; Atlanta was first and Nashville ranked eighth.

“One issue is having the river so close,” Haag said of Memphis’ heavy mosquito population. “Shelby Farms and other places have a lot of water. And you’ve got a lot of trees that give mosquitoes shade.”

All this is good for business, of course. BuzzFree has nine employees, which are full-time during the mosquito season (roughly April through October), and 650 clients.

The cost of having a system installed runs from $2,500 to $3,500, plus it will cost anywhere from $50 to $100 per month for the pyrethrum-based solution; the pyrethrum is derived from the chrysanthemum flower. So-called barrier sprays, which will last about three weeks depending on the weather, run from $50 to $100 per spray.

Haag also advises cleaning gutters, gathering up leaves and eliminating standing water – including water sitting in a birdbath with no flow – to reduce the mosquito problem.

“Even a paint can lid or a cupped magnolia leaf can hold mosquito larvae,” he said.

An installed system is virtually unnoticeable, with small brass nozzles typically located under eaves of the house, on trees and near the top of fencing.

“As much as possible, we try to hide the system,” Haag said.

Haag is upfront about the fact that the system can’t kill all mosquitoes. The company does aim to be a game-changer, however. The BuzzFree slogan: “It’s your yard. Enjoy it.”

That’s what Thomas has been doing, even feeling comfortable with having her 2-year-old grandson out in the pool.

“He’s very fair-skinned,” she said. “(Without the system), I know the mosquitoes would have done him the same way.”

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