Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

pennymugBugs! We seem to be surrounded by them lately, but not always because of wet weather.

Two insects are “bugging” Fairfax currently: the emerald ash borer and the Culex mosquito. The former preys on trees; the latter, on birds and people.


The emerald ash borer, so named because of its bright green metallic color, is a serious threat to ash trees, and was discovered in several locations across the county last summer, including in Bailey’s Crossroads. The emerald ash borer probably was transported into Fairfax County in infected nursery stock from the mid-West. Ash trees attacked by the insect likely are to die; there is no cure for the damage done. It has been estimated that there are two million ash trees in Fairfax County.

To help monitor and track the pest’s presence in Fairfax County, Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) employees are placing 2000 non-toxic glue traps high up in stands of ash trees. The traps are big (about two feet tall and a foot square), purple, and covered with an extremely sticky glue. DPWES also is looking for homeowners who will allow traps to be hung in ash trees on private property. If you see a trap that has fallen to the ground, please call the Forest Pest Branch at 703/324-5304. Do not touch the trap; it is designed to catch bugs, not people!

The Fairfax County Health Department announced West Nile Virus-positive mosquito samples have tested positive earlier than in years past. Floodwater mosquitoes especially are pesky, as they are very aggressive and readily attack people during the daytime. More than 30,000 storm drains are scheduled to combat the Culex mosquito, which are primarily involved in the West Nile Virus cycle. The Health Department recommends a few tips for residents to reduce exposure to mosquitoes: use insect repellents containing DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR-3535 according to label instructions; wear long, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing when outdoors; and regularly clean out roof gutters and black corrugated drain pipes. Also practice “Tip and Toss” in your yard every few days. Water collects in planters, buckets, old tires, toys, and even tarps covering wood piles, so vigilance after a storm is especially important. Mosquitoes don’t fly very far, so if you have ’em, you probably grew ’em nearby!

On a far more pleasant note, foster parents from around the region were honored recently at the 2009 Metropolitan Washington Foster Parent Appreciation Gala. This annual event, sponsored by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) and the Freddie Mac Foundation, celebrates the hard work and dedication of the region’s foster parents. As this year COG chairman, I was privileged to share the podium with NBC-4 newscaster Barbara Harrison as hundreds of foster parents gathered for an evening out on the town.

Fairfax County’s honorees are Vigi and Fatima Phillips of Springfield, who answered an emergency call to assist a pregnant teenage mother who was carrying a special needs child. Without hesitation and almost no preparation, the Phillips provided affectionate attention, patience, and unwavering support for a teen in desperate need. The teenage mother and her medically fragile daughter joined the Phillips household, which already included two adopted siblings.

Caring for the region’s 6000 children in foster care is a tremendously challenging job that requires love and patience. Foster parents, thankfully, continue to open their hearts to these children who otherwise would have no place to call home. For more information about foster parent programs, please call the Fairfax County Department of Family Services at 703/324-7639, or log on to www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dfs.


  • Penny Gross

    Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov