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Long Beach residents bite back against greenheads

By MIKE JACCARINO Staff Writer, (609) 978-2010
Press of Atlantic City


LONG BEACH TOWNSHIP - The way he describes it is reminiscent of scenes from Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds."

One summer day, Cliff Denker's wife, Jill, sunbathed in the Holgate section of town, on the very southern end of Long Beach Island.

Then a common occurrence took place. Greenheads swarmed. And swarmed. And swarmed. Until the flies drove Jill Denker off the beach and to her car.

"My wife was attacked," Denker said. "It was horrible."

Everyone from southeastern New Jersey has a greenhead horror story. The day they went to the beach with friends and the pesky insects attacked. They bit and bit and bit until a day on the sand just didn't seem fun anymore.

Most of us blow off the experience and maybe shake our fist at fate or Mother Nature.

Denker took matters into his own hands. Since summer 2002, he and his wife have waged a war against the greenheads of Long Beach Island.

As a result of their efforts, this year Long Beach Township will place about 80 state-of-the-art greenhead traps around the island.

"The (Denkers) are the ones that spent 24/7 on this," township Commissioner Robert Palmer said. "They're very dedicated to this and have spent a lot of personal time."

"Look, they bite. Your skin blotches and blows up. Children ... families are literally forced to leave the beach," Jill Denker said.

The Denkers bought their Long Beach Island home in spring 2002. That summer is known locally as one of the worst in recent memory for greenheads.

The couple lives in Livingston, Essex County, where Cliff Denker, 42, works as a consultant for a chemical company. Jill Denker is a homemaker. They have two children.

"We always wanted to own a beach house, and we finally bought one," Cliff Denker said. "But (the dream) was spoiled. It was one of the worst greenhead summers on record."

During a vacation to Cape Cod later that summer, they learned of a solution.

Cape Cod, Mass., has its own Greenhead Fly Control District, part of a larger organization also responsible for the local mosquito population.

The state formed the body in 1952, but officials didn't immediately find solutions.

Only in the late 1960s did the now-deceased Dr. William Wall, a scientist from Bridgewater State University, perfect the traps used today after years of research, according to Gabrielle Sakolsky, assistant superintendent for the Cape Cod commission.

Today, Bart Morris, a commission employee, scatters 800 traps around the 90-mile peninsula each April. In September, Morris, a carpenter who also builds the traps, retrieves them.

A typical trap will catch 6,000 flies during the summer, Sakolsky said. In the 1990s, Cape Cod officials added an attractive aroma to some traps.

The chemical, called octenol, is known locally as "ox breath." Ox-breath traps catch as many as 30,000 flies in a season, Sakolsky said.

Last year, Long Beach Township built 50 traps based on the Cape Cod design. The Denkers provided the plans. Previously, the township had used a Rutgers University design believed by many to be less effective.

Holgate residents placed the traps at a nearby section of the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.

This year, the Denkers enlisted the Ocean County Vocational School to build 30 traps.

Administrative debate about where to put the traps has delayed their placement, Palmer said. Residents plan to place the traps during the next two weeks.

Eventually, the Denkers would like to see Long Beach Island set up a commission similar to Cape Cod's. This year, Cape Cod devoted $23,000 to greenhead control, but that amount is lumped into general funding for mosquito control, Sakolsky said.

"I think the idea has merit," said state Sen. Leonard Connors, R-Ocean, Burlington, Atlantic, whom the Denkers petitioned. "The box traps work well. They kill them by the thousands."

But what is driving the couple's crusade?

"I think it's emotional," Cliff Denker said.

"This was supposed to be a vacation place, a place to spend time and create memories," added Jill Denker. "It's still lovely, but it's now become where my husband and I, and other people who bought homes, are fighting this cause."

When the couple's long-held dream of owning a beach house became a reality, unwanted guests, distinctive by their powerful bites and green heads, interrupted the dream. But if Cliff and Jill Denker have anything to say about it, it won't be for long.
 

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Give me a break Cliff and Jill the greenheads have been here long before you! Learn to deal with them like I have been doing all my life! Now what other problems do you think will be created by not having the greenheads? Surely something?
 

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I don't know. In the OC area, the greenies have been a weak show in recent years, I remember a few years ago and having the entire inside of the bimini top covered with the things. I'm with Flukenewsty, those da*n gnats MUST be ALL teeth! They ruin the early evenings on the bay and there is no joy in smooshing one of those tiny things.
 

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BEACHBASSARD I agree BRIGANTINE IS THE GREEN HEAD CAPITOL OF THE WORLD.
Try loading up with vitamin B-Complex before going they don't like the taste of it in your blood
 

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I don't spend much time in Brigantine but I bet Leeds Pt. would give a serious challenge for the title of greenhead capitol. Does anyone know what the "Cape Cod" design trap looks like. The type I use is a flat screen across the top of the box and 2 screens inside that form an upside down V with a small gap at the top. It works much better than the upside down plastic bucket over a hole in the top screen method.
 

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I agree, Brig is one of the worst in the world for greenies. But ever been to Fortescue in July? Puts Brig to shame. Bayside is the absolute worst for strawberry flies too. And that's just the NJ side. Ever been to the marshes in DE? Greenies there are the size of schoolbusses...


Also, this lady probably won't be happy until Holgate is paved over and the marshes are sprayed to death. Then her "beach paradise" will be perfect... :rolleyes: Learn to live with the flies like the locals do.

[ 06-14-2004, 07:25 AM: Message edited by: Fly Ty R ]
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Ouch! Greenheads biting again in Lower

By RICHARD DEGENER Staff Writer, (609) 463-6711, E-Mail-Press of Atlantic City

LOWER TOWNSHIP - Bill Maher was taking an outdoor shower a few days ago when he felt a stinging pain that brought back childhood memories.

He knew it wasn't a mosquito. He knew it wasn't a deer fly or a stable fly. Maher was sure it was the pest of his youth growing up near the salt marshes outside Avalon a half-century ago.

No way, he thought. It couldn't be a greenhead because there is no salt marsh near his Sunset Boulevard home. Greenheads live in salt marshes and the nearest one was over by Schellenger's Landing.

Ouch. Bitten again. This time Maher got the culprit. Sure enough, it was a greenhead. Maher, an environmentalist who knew that the marsh near his house, Pond Creek Meadow, was converted to a freshwater wetlands system in the early 20th century, was very surprised.

"I've got greenheads down here for the first time in 100 years. I got bit twice while taking an outdoor shower," Maher told a reporter.

As it turns out, the retired dentist could have been the first person south of the Cape May Canal to feel the sting of a pest making a comeback of sorts. Maher knows the feeling well.

"I knew it was a greenhead because I grew up in Avalon. As kids, we used to swat them on the beach and see who had the most at the end of the day. But I never saw one here and I've lived here since 1983," Maher said.

The news does not surprise officials with the state Department of Environmental Protection or the Cape May County Mosquito Commission. They know part of Pond Creek is becoming salty again and this is killing freshwater vegetation such as the phragmites marsh reed. It is slowly bringing back salt-marsh vegetation greenheads call home.

"There is some salt water getting into Pond Creek up by the Magnesite Plant area. If you look over the dunes you can see some phragmites dying out. The greenheads could have blown in from someplace else, but I think it's possible they could have come from Pond Creek," said Lee Widjeskog, regional superintendent of the DEP's Bureau of Land Management.

The marsh was originally a tidal system. In 1741, when John Stillwell bought 200 acres here, there was a tidal creek deep enough for large sailing vessels that transported salt hay, lumber, sand and fresh produce. Salt-hay farmers in the early 20th century had severely limited tidal flow, and by 1917, the Cape May County Mosquito Commission further reduced it in a successful attempt to eliminate salt-marsh mosquitoes.

Commission Superintendent Judy Hansen said that when she was hired in 1959, the marsh had mostly gone fresh, although there were still some salt-marsh cordgrasses in isolated pockets into the 1960s. In recent decades, the marsh was all freshwater wetlands dominated first by cattails and in recent years by phragmites.

But in 1996, a pipe that drained the Pond Creek overflow into the Delaware Bay collapsed. The marsh filled with water, producing a bumper crop of cattail mosquitoes that lit up Hansen's phone lines. The commission responded by digging a trench through the Higbee Beach dunes to drain fresh water from the marsh. The new trench allowed the tides to come back into Pond Creek for the first time in decades.

The trench didn't seem like much of a deal at the time, especially since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state DEP have a plan, first proposed by the Mosquito Commission, to return about 300 acres of the 450-acre Pond Creek Meadow to the flow of the tides. The idea is to kill the phragmites and reduce the cattail mosquitoes that breed there. The commission project was merely a small precursor to a much larger project waiting for federal funding.

Hansen said the tides have already come in enough to kill some phragmites and establish the salt-marsh cordgrass Spartina alterniflora, and it would make sense that greenheads would follow.

"It means the marsh is starting to restore itself," Hansen said.

If the larger project is done, Hansen expects the salt-marsh mosquito to be a bigger problem than greenheads, but she said the commission would manage the tract to reduce them with a series of ponds and ditches. Salt-marsh mosquitoes are easier to control than cattail mosquitoes. She does not expect major greenhead numbers since they breed in a thin band above the tide line.

"There would be a few if they open it to the tides. I don't think it would be a major producer, not like the thousands of acres on the ocean side. This is only a couple hundred acres," Hansen said.

Maher opposes the larger project. He would rather have cattail mosquitoes, which he said are controlled better by natural predators, than greenheads and salt-marsh mosquitoes.

"Our patriot forefathers blocked the saltwater flow in Pond Creek to farm and civilize this island. Now that the island is developed, they come up with this myopic plan to bring back the salt water to kill the phragmites. It will devastate the aquifers, the flora and fauna that developed over the years," Maher said.

At the beach, within sight of where the wetlands change is slowly occurring, people have been noticing the greenheads.

"I've had two on me today. They don't feel very good," said David Scull, of West Cape May.

Scull said there are obviously some tradeoffs involved.

"They have to weigh what's beneficial and what's not," Scull said. "Phragmites or greenheads, which is worse? It's a matter of opinion, isn't it?"
 

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"I've had two on me today. They don't feel very good," said David Scull, of West Cape May.

Oh no, not T-T-T-TWO greenheads......
Two greenheads in my backyard would be a sign of a severe saltmarsh crisis. I'm more used to two thousand at a pop. And no, they don't feel very good, either..... :D

I really enjoy how Maher is attributing the re-introduction of saltwater (which would have happened naturally anyway as the dike deteriorated) to the "devestation of the aquifers". I'm sure the saltwater intrusion has nothing to do with the massive groundwater withdraws on a peninsula surrounded by saltwater. No, it's all due to one little natural salt creek (with surficial saline water, by the way). What a joke :rolleyes: .

[ 06-21-2004, 03:26 PM: Message edited by: Fly Ty R ]
 

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leeds pt in july...oooof! I remember going down there with my windows down, going in to oyster creek restraunt for 2 min. and coming back to find HUNDREDS of Green heads in the truck.
Next time I went I had the windows up, and that sucked with no air conditioner. It was way better than the green heads though. When you stop with the windows up they just swarm outside like some kinda horror movie.
I saw one so big in Brig one time that it carried away a child.
 

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Originally posted by BEACHBASSARD:
NOW EVERY ONE KNOWS BRIGANTINE IS THE GREEN HEAD CAPITOL OF THE WORLD.
TWO YEARS AGO I SEEN ONE SO BIG IT HAD A LICENCS PLAT ON IT THAT READ (IBITE1) :D :D
I AGREE 100%!!!!!!!!
 

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Fortesque is really bad!!!!!! The salt hay feilds around dividing creek are terrible. Wetdream stays at a place where the guy that cuts grass wheres a bee keepers suit. They will actually chase the truck down!!!!!! LOL
 

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Aaaahhh, those darn flies are ruining her summer at the beach. She paid for that house, how dare they! I feel so bad for her I'm going to go down to the boat today and kill 10 flies just for Jill.
 
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