By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
The Hill County Mosquito Control District has nearly exhausted its funding this year, meaning pesticide applications will soon cease for the summer. Still, board members said the district was successful at reducing the number of mosquitoes in Havre and plan to hold an educational meeting for the public next month.
"I really do think they would have been bad all summer if we hadn't been spraying. Hopefully next summer we'll do even better," said board member Terry Lilletvedt.
Mosquito board member Kim Cripps said the district has "absolutely" had an impact on the number of mosquitoes in Havre.
"As far as the comments we've gotten, everybody was very happy and very pleased. There weren't any mosquito problems until the last week or 10 days. It was very well accepted in the community," she said.
District employees applied larvicide to areas of standing water in Havre earlier this mosquito season, and have augmented the larvicide by spraying pesticide throughout the city on a regular basis. Larvicide differs from traditional pesticide in that it reduces mosquitoes by interrupting the reproductive process rather than killing them through direct toxicity.
Next summer, the district may apply the larvicide twice during the summer, Lilletvedt said.
"The mosquitoes are out pretty ferociously, which you don't expect in August," she said, adding that the amount of moisture Havre has received has been ideal for mosquitoes.
"If we have another summer like this, we may have to do it twice," she said.
The district's work this summer is nearing an end, she said.
"The funds for this summer have just about been exhausted," she said. "We're getting pretty low on chemical."
Lilletvedt said she is pleased at the impact the mosquito district has had this summer with its limited budget.
The district was established last summer after organizers petitioned county officials. Voters approved an annual fee, which will be assessed for the first time in November. Mosquito reduction programs were not scheduled to begin until 2005, but a last-minute loan from Hill County allowed the district to start this summer.
The Hill County Commission approved lending the mosquito district $50,000 from the county's discretionary gas tax fund. The loan will be paid off over the next 10 years.
The $50,000 allowed the district to purchase some equipment and supplies of larvicide and other pesticide.
After this year, the district will be funded through the fees levied on property owners each year. The fees are expected to raise between $80,000 and $90,000 a year.
Although the district only operated in Havre this year, the actual district covers an area 6 miles north to 6 miles south of Havre and extending 7 miles west of the city and east to the Blaine County line. It includes about 130,000 acres of land and 1,560 acres of surface water.
The Mosquito Control District plans to hold an educational forum next month and may ask an entomologist to speak during the meeting, said board member Rick Harada.
"We wanted somebody to come up that had some expertise," he said.
Lilletvedt said the meeting will give the mosquito district a chance to educate the public about mosquitoes and mosquito- abatement programs.
"(It's) just to provide an update on what studies are showing on mosquitoes, and we may have a rep from a company we bought some equipment from. It's just a chance to let the public know what we've done so far," she said. "It's important for us to try to communicate with the public as much as we can."
Hill County has not had any confirmed cases of West Nile virus in humans this year, Cindy Smith, director of nursing for the Hill County Health Department, said this morning.
Montana State University-Bozeman entomologist Greg Johnson has been testing mosquitoes trapped just west of Havre, and has not found any mosquitoes carrying the virus, she said.
Last year several local people became seriously ill after contracting West Nile disease, which is carried by infected mosquitoes.
West Nile virus was a major concern for mosquito district proponents when the district was being organized.
About 80 percent of those infected with the virus develop no symptoms. About one in five people experience mild flu-like symptoms, while fewer than one in 150 will develop severe illness, which can include encephalitis, or swelling of the brain. About one in 1,000 people who contract the virus die.
People over the age of 50 are at greatest risk of serious illness.