Newsletter
Trees along Nutley Street in Vienna. The town has 76 trees on the meridian and plans to replace dozens of invasive Bradford pear trees (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Town of Vienna leaders agreed to replace dozens of trees on Nutley Street after a citizen raised concerns about several invasive ones there.

The citizen, who wishes to remain anonymous, is giving $20,000 to the town, which agreed yesterday (Monday) to replace 27 Bradford pear trees (also known as Callery pear trees). The trees, which produce white flowers and can reach 60 feet in height, frequently choke out native plants when birds eat and spread their fruit.

“South Carolina…actually offers a bounty on people…bringing Bradford pears in,” Bob Robinson, a member of the town’s Conservation and Sustainability Commission, told the Vienna Town Council during the meeting.

The town will replace the Bradford pear trees with trees native to Virginia, including black gum, honey locust, and willow oak.

Vienna Parks Maintenance Superintendent Jeremy Edwards said the replacement trees will start with a height of around 7 to 9 feet, noting that other smaller trees planted there two years ago are now about 10 feet tall. Once they adapt to the soil, the newcomers will grow much larger, he said.

Town officials also discussed putting up signage when crews replace the trees to help inform the public.

According to Leslie Herman, the town’s parks and recreation director, it will take about a month in between removing and replanting trees. The town will replace the trees by the end of fiscal year 2023.

The money will be used to “dismantle and remove the existing Bradford/Callery Pear trees that are currently located on the Nutley Street median. The donation will then be used for stump grinding, purchase, delivery, and planting the native trees, mulching, and other services,” according to town staff.

If money remains, the town will use it to replace Chinese pistache trees on Nutley Street with Virginia native trees and then Linden trees that are in poor health.

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Morning Notes

Drop in Domestic Violence Cases Could Be Misleading — “Fairfax County Police data obtained by WTOP showed domestic violence decreased by roughly 190 cases each year since 2019. However, Saly Fayez, who oversees its victim services division, said it’s likely because the crime is underreported…Fayez said the pandemic kept victims from reporting, skewed the data, and gave abusers another tool of control.” [WTOP]

Fish Die-Off Reported in Chantilly Area — “We have received reports of a fish die-off in Rocky Run in the Greenbriar area. Fairfax County Stormwater Management the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, which investigates such incidents, have been notified. Our thanks to those who have reported the issue to us.” [Fairfax County Park Authority/Twitter]

MCA Wants to Keep McLean Together With Redistricting — “The Greater McLean area should be kept intact when new Fairfax County magisterial districts are redrawn, according to a Sept. 18 letter from the McLean Citizens Association to the 2021 Fairfax County Redistricting Advisory Committee…MCA’s membership area includes not only McLean, but also portions of Tysons, Falls Church and Great Falls.” [Sun Gazette]

Health Department Launches Literacy Initiative — “The Fairfax County Health Department has begun a new initiative to improve health literacy among local African-American, African and Hispanic communities. Named ‘Stronger Partnership, Stronger Community: Using Health Literacy to Increase Resilience (Stronger2),’ the program seeks to improve health outcomes by cultivating an individual’s ability to find, understand and use health information and services in a manner that is culturally and linguistically appropriate.” [FCHD]

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Morning Notes

Virginia Prepares to Vaccinate Kids Against COVID-19 — “Northam said during a news conference that the state Department of Health is working with local school divisions and superintendents to roll out the vaccines as soon as they are available and that administering shots in schools would be equitable and efficient. The Pfizer vaccine is expected to be approved for children ages 5-11 in late October or early November.” [Inside NoVA]

Fairfax County Schools Vandalized for TikTok Trend — Falls Church High School and Rocky Run Middle School in Chantilly are casualties of the social media site’s “devious licks” challenge, which involves students vandalizing school property, often bathrooms. A Fairfax County Public Schools spokesperson said discipline has been and will be taken in response to the damage. [WTOP]

County Fire and Rescue Recruits GMU to Save Honeybees — “Recently, a honeybee hive was discovered at #FCFRD USAR Training site. Instead of killing the bees, George Mason University was contacted to see if they knew of an option to facilitate a relocation. The Honeybee Initiative at GMU came out and relocated the hive! A future without bees would really sting! Great to BEE a part of a positive solution!” [FCFRD/Facebook]

Longtime Vienna Jewelry Store Celebrates Reopening — Achikian Goldsmiths, a jewelry store that has operated in the Town of Vienna since 1990, will hold a grand opening celebration to mark its relocation to 110 Pleasant Street NW. Starting at 5 p.m. today (Tuesday), the ceremony will include a ribbon-cutting by Mayor Linda Colbert and a “diamond giveaway,” according to signs on the storefront.

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Arbor day tree planting in 2017 (via Falls Church Village Preservation and Improvement Society)

The City of Falls Church and the Falls Church Village Preservation and Improvement Society (VPIS) are planning to plant 30 new trees this fall and could use some of your input on where to put them.

Charles Prince, City of Falls Church Arborist, says the planting effort is part of a multi-year push to spruce up much of the city, and the 30-tree goal is intended to be mindful of the limited scale of volunteer operations.

“The Department of Public Works has a goal of 100 trees per year that started this past July,” Prince said by email. “100 is the number of trees planted for the City’s first Arbor Day. Right now we have limited resources due to volunteer event restrictions (COVID) and until our in house crew is hired we are down three people that would normally assist with planting. Setting a goal of 30 trees using a tree contractor lets us work towards our goal while being mindful of budget.”

While the target goal of 100 trees per year is new, Prince says Falls Church has had an annual tree planting program in place for over two decades.

“This is a successful and popular annual program that has been in place since 2000 and has resulted in 1,400 trees thanks to many, many volunteers,” Prince said.

Prince said the program has helped make the tree canopy a core part of the city’s DNA, noting that Falls Church has been designated a Tree City USA by the National Arbor Day Foundation for 42 consecutive years.

“The distinction honors the City’s commitment to community forestry,” Prince said. “In fact, the City was the first community in Virginia to be recognized as a Tree City and has the longest state record for this annual national award. The City had the first Arbor Day in the state in 1892 after a hurricane hit Falls Church.”

Prince said the trees program helps provide several benefits, from shade and filtering CO2 to reducing stormwater runoff and certain health benefits.

For residents hoping to get a tree from the city to plant, Prince said there are a few restrictions, including that requests must come from Falls Church City residents. Falls Church addresses outside city limits don’t count.

Sites also must have room for a shade tree within 15 feet of the street with no interfering utilities, and they can’t be subject to a required landscaping plan.

Requests must be submitted to the city or VPIS by Sept. 6 to be eligible for the fall planting.

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Morning Notes

Petersen Says School Reopening Bill Doesn’t Support Mask Mandate — State Sens. Siobhan S. Dunnavant (R-12th) and Chap Petersen (D-34th), whose district includes Vienna, sent a letter to local superintendents and school boards on Aug. 18 that suggested they aren’t obligated to comply with Virginia’s mask mandate for schools. The senators took issue with Gov. Ralph Northam citing their bill that required schools to provide in-person learning this fall to justify the mask requirement. [The Washington Post]

Bird Feeding Can Resume — The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources says people can start putting out bird feeders again with some precautionary measures in place after reports of a mysterious illness sickening and sometimes killing birds have declined. The state agency started documenting the issue in late May and later released a map that shows Fairfax and Arlington counties were most affected. [Patch]

Disabled McLean Artist Dies — “Wendi ‘Paige’ Crouch, a McLean resident who overcame a devastating car crash and became an accomplished artist by learning how to paint with a brush in her mouth, died Aug. 19 at age 61…Crouch prided herself on brush control and tried to achieve photo-realism in her works. She worked at a drafting table with sufficient room below to accommodate her motorized wheelchair.” [Sun Gazette]

Credit Union CEO Reflects on Choice of Tysons for HQ — “In 2016, PenFed announced that it selected Tysons — the largest commercial district in Fairfax County — for its new headquarters after a regional search. [James] Schenck said he could not be happier with the location decision for managing PenFed’s worldwide credit union operations and for engaging in charitable initiatives to help veterans through the PenFed Foundation.” [Fairfax County Economic Development Authority]

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Morning Notes

Virginia Redistricting Commission Splits on Map — The commission will submit two possible maps for new congressional and legislative districts to the General Assembly in October after its Democratic and Republican members couldn’t agree on who will draw the maps. Del. Marcus Simon (D-53rd), who called the commission flawed when it went on the ballot last November, was not impressed. [WTOP]

Virginia Tech Expert Backs Mite Theory for Bug Bites — An entomologist with the Virginia Tech Insect ID Lab says oak itch mites are likely behind the mysterious, itchy bug bites that many D.C. area residents have reported in recent weeks, possibly linked to the cicada emergence. A Fairfax County environmental health official told Tysons Reporter last week that the mites were a suspected cause but had not been confirmed. [ARLnow]

County to Hold Meeting on Pickleball Study — “The Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) seeks the public’s input on the emerging sport of pickleball and invites the community to attend a virtual meeting to introduce its draft Pickleball Study…The event will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at 7 p.m. and will be available online afterward for those unable to attend live.” [FCPA]

Vienna Dog Park Closed This Morning — The Vienna Dog Park at the corner of Courthouse Road and Moorefield Road SW will be closed for maintenance from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. today (Thursday). It is the only publicly owned dog park in the Tysons area. [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

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The nearly invisible oak leaf itch mite (via James Kalisch/University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

(Updated at 3:45 p.m.) Fairfax County residents are itching to understand the culprit behind weird skin reactions, possibly linked to bug bites, that have been reported throughout the D.C. region this summer.

As first reported by Tysons Reporter’s sister site ARLnow, people in Northern Virginia and beyond are finding itchy red marks on their skin that are not quite mosquito bites and may be linked to oak leaf itch mites, an arachnid that’s nearly invisible to the naked eye.

Dr. Amir Bajoghli, a dermatologist who sees patients in McLean and Woodbridge in his Skin & Laser Dermatology offices, says he has seen an increase in the number of patients with this kind of issue, often involving raised red bumps or tiny blisters. The bumps can look like acne and be intensely itchy, similar to poison ivy.

“Because of all the cicadas we had, [the mites] were basically feasting on the eggs,” Bajoghli said, noting the mites can fall from trees and be carried by wind. “Patients have even been telling me it’s worse than their experience with poison ivy.”

Oak leaf itch mites might cause red welts and affect people not only outdoors, but also indoors, potentially entering through window screens.

They typically feed on the larvae of small flies that form on leaves in oak trees. But local health officials suggest this year’s cicada emergence may be a factor, giving oak leaf itch mites another source of food from the cicada eggs laid in trees.

Still, Fairfax County health officials stressed that there’s no confirmation that the oak leaf itch mite is the cause of the bites, saying “it’s only a suspected cause at this time.”

“Although we are not certain what may be causing these bites, one of the suspected causes is the microscopic Oak Leaf Itch Mite,” Joshua Smith, the environmental health supervisor of the Fairfax County Health Department’s Disease Carrying Insect Program, said in a statement. “This mite has been presumptively associated with itchy bites in other regions of the U.S.”

States from Illinois to Texas have observed apparent outbreaks of the mite throughout recent decades.

“Most puzzling was the lack of any insect being seen or felt during the act of biting,” a research paper on a 2004 outbreak in Kansas noted.

Bajoghli, the dermatologist, recommends hydrocortisone as a starting point for treatment, which people can obtain without a prescription.

If that’s insufficient, doctors and dermatologists can provide prescription-strength remedies. He said over-the-counter antihistamines are also somewhat helpful.

“People can best protect themselves by limiting their time from under infested trees and by immediately removing and laundering clothing and then showering,” Penn State Extension researcher Steve Jacobs wrote in a patient-focused guide.

Whether the skin reactions involve that mite or something else, the Fairfax County Health Department has several recommendations for steps people can take to prevent problems with mosquitoes, ticks, and other pests:

  • Use repellents. Products registered with the Environmental Protection Agency and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have active ingredients that include DEET, IR3535, picaridin, and more.
  • Wear long pants and long-sleeve shirts outdoors.
  • Shower after outdoor activities, washing away crawling ticks as well as doing a tick check.
  • Launder clothes worn for outdoor activities. Ten minutes in the dryer on high heat will kill ticks on clothing.
  • Avoid scratching bites. A cold compress or other products may help relieve itchiness.

People with questions and concerns are encouraged to talk with their health care provider.

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The cicadas are here, along with a new rap about the insects from local hip-hop artist MC Bugg-Z.

“Brood X-cellence” is a deep rhyming dive into the entomology, science, and emergence of Brood X, the periodical cicadas that are just now surfacing from their 17-year slumber underground.

Lines like “I have been chilling underground with my friends sippin on root juices” and “It’s a fitness thing, you’re witnessing predator satiation” will certainly have wings flapping and red eyes darting.

The song is written and performed by MC Bugg-Z, who isn’t just any old bug-loving underground hip-hop artist. He’s an entomologist and biologist who works for Fairfax County.

“I’m part of the Fairfax County Health Department’s Division of Environmental Health and, inside the Division of Environmental Health, we have the disease-carrying insects program,” Andy Lima said. “That’s my normal, real-life job.”

Lima has been writing and recording underground hip-hop since his college days in the mid-2000s with a focus on intelligent lyric writing.

“It’s more about the rhymes than the beats,” Lima said. “I love to convey the knowledge about the things I love and the world I know…by putting it into hip-hop song form.”

In Lima’s case, that’s bugs, and this isn’t his first foray into the emerging genre of insect rap.

In 2016, he released “Zika 101” about protecting oneself from disease-carrying mosquitoes. In 2018, there was “Tick-Check 1-2” about checking for ticks and avoiding Lyme Disease, followed a year later by “West Nile Story.”

While cicadas are not known to carry disease, Lima couldn’t skip the opportunity for a new song about a bug.

“Brood X-cellence” is a remix or sequel of sorts to a cicada rap he wrote back in 2004, when the brood last emerged. He was a student at Indiana University back then, and the din of the cicadas could actually be heard in the background of the recording.

“I was going to just re-release that one this year and just felt like there were things about the song that I wanted to change, new information that I wanted to include and, also, some errors,” Lima said. “I’ve learned some stuff over the past 17 years…Now, the focus is much more on the biology of it as opposed to the spectacle itself.”

When he writes songs, Lima takes a reverse-engineered approach. He thinks about how he wants to end a line and then finds a rhyme to match it.

“I don’t shy away from the scientific words because they are multi-syllables,” Lima said. “You can often find a way to rhyme them or, even, define some of these terms [in the rhyme]…like predator satiation.”

It took about two weeks to write, re-work, and record “Brood X-cellence.” The beat was provided by Kelton Williams, another Fairfax County employee who Lima met while helping with COVID-19 emergency response.

“He’s a great musician,” said Lima. “As soon as I heard [his beat], I thought ‘Oh man, this is going down.'”

The main takeaway that Lima wants folks to get from the song is that this cicada takeover is an incredibly rare and amazing occurrence.

“It’s a fleeting event, a miracle of nature,” he said. “It really only occurs in the eastern half of the United States and nowhere else in the world…It’s just so rare that the public is kind of overrun with insects.”

He hopes his bug rap educates, entertains, and allows folks to have a little fun after a difficult year.

With the temperatures warming, particularly in the evening, the cicadas are expected to come out of the ground en masse within a matter of days, looking to play their own song.

“We’re really going to see the surge that’s just beyond,” Lima said. “So, hopefully my song is well-timed.”

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Morning Notes

Virginia to Speed Up Unemployment Claims — Gov. Ralph Northam told the Virginia Employment Commission yesterday (Tuesday) to invest $20 million to add staff and make technology upgrades to process unemployment insurance claims faster. Aiming to modernize the system by Oct. 1, the governor’s office says the funds will speed up the resolution of cases flagged as potentially fraudulent or ineligible, about 4% of all claims. [Office of the Governor]

Warmer Weather Brings Hope for CicadasBrood X cicadas emerged “in pockets” around the D.C. region this past week, but evening temperatures in the 40s and 50s presented challenges during their molting process and left those that molted successfully “sluggish” and vulnerable to predators. The emergence should accelerate later this week, with temperatures expected to climb into the 80s and 90s. [The Washington Post]

Verizon Proposes Cell Tower in Falls Church — Verizon Wireless and Milestone Towers have submitted a proposal to the Falls Church City School Board to install a cell tower on the city’s high school and middle school campus. Two virtual town halls will be held today (Wednesday), starting with one for surrounding residents at 6-7 p.m. and followed by one for the school community at 7-8 p.m. [Falls Church News-Press]

Celebrate Fairfax Festival Canceled — “Celebrate Fairfax organizers announced late Monday that the 2021 festival will not take place. The event is typically held over several days in the summer outside the Fairfax County Government Center. The event was also canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” [Patch]

Caboose Tavern to Donate Pancakes to Firefighters — “Neighborhood favorite Caboose Tavern is donating one stack of pancakes to the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department for every breakfast meal purchased through May 28. The Caboose Tavern team will deliver the pancakes to Vienna’s first responders following the campaign. The partnership comes shortly after Caboose launched their new breakfast service.” [Caboose Tavern]

Photo by Joanne Liebig

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Morning Notes

New Police Chief to Speak at Public Input Session — Community members will get their first chance to talk to new Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis at 7 p.m. on Thursday (May 6). Local civil rights groups have criticized Davis’s past record and a hiring process they say lacked transparency and public involvement, prompting the county board to issue a statement last night reaffirming its support for Davis. [Supervisor Rodney Lusk/Twitter]

COVID-19 Vaccine Could Soon Be Approved for Teens — “During a news briefing Friday, Virginia’s state vaccination coordinator Dr. Danny Avula said the CDC believes it is likely there will be an approved vaccine for ages 12 and up between mid-May to late May. Pfizer could be the first to get approval for ages 12 and up, followed by Moderna few weeks later, Avula said.” [Patch]

Cicadas Officially Emerge in Tysons — Brood X’s emergence began Monday night (May 3), when “more than 40 cicadas were spotted hanging off of branches just west of Tysons,” a periodical cicada expert told ABC7. The first cicada in the D.C. area appeared near Towson, Maryland, on April 19. [ABC7 News-WJLA]

Vienna Bans Plastic Bags for Yard Waste — The Vienna Town Council voted unanimously last week to eliminate the use of plastic bags for yard waste collection, following the lead of Fairfax County, which started enforcing its ban on April 19. Residents should instead utilize reusable containers or paper bags designed to hold leaves, grass clippings, and other yard waste. [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

Vienna Contractor to Take on Private Health Care Providers — “Eight-year-old Vienna IT company Nolij Consulting has helped develop an electronic health records system for the Pentagon that serves 41,000 active users — and now it’s looking to take that expertise to the private sector.” [Washington Business Journal]

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