The supervisor of the Havre-Hill County Mosquito District said the insects’ activity has been low so far this year, but warmer weather — like the heat forecast this weekend — could bring an upswing.
Supervisor Terry Turner said that, once the temperatures hit 80 degrees and warmer, mosquitoes can hatch out in five days.
“That’s my big concern right now, ” Turner said.
The warmer weather could bring the potentially dangerous pests out just in time for the week named in honor of their control. June 24-June 30 is Mosquito Awareness Week.
Turner said the number of mosquitoes in the Havre area have been low so far — traps are collecting about 250 of the insects, compared to 3,000 or more in some previous years.
Turner attributes part of that to the work of the mosquito district — larvicide and fogging to kill adult mosquitoes — along with the cooler weather keeping the numbers down so far.
But with warmer weather predicted — and the season for the culex-type of mosquito, which can carry the West Nile virus, nearly here — Turner said people should be working to keep mosquito habitat down.
The culex mosquito generally first appears in mid-July.
Mosquitoes carry many other dangerous illnesses as well, and people should work to reduce risks all season, the American Mosquito Control Association says on its website.
More than 1 million people die each year from illnesses transmitted from mosquitoes, including malaria, dengue and yellow fever as well as West Nile.
Turner said the county employees have been working with larvicide in some parts of the district, which extends about 5 miles north and south of Havre, and will likely start using the fogging machines next week, depending on the weather.
He said the district also has larvicide available for people to use on small locations on their property, such as a depression in the lawn that may collect water.
The larvicide is harmless except for mosquitoes — “it’s safe for animals and the whole works, ” Turner said — and the fog is generally safe as well. Turner said that is derived from chrysanthemums, so outside of people allergic to the flower, is generally harmless.
He added that people who do have allergies can contact the mosquito district, which will update them when spraying will be done in their neighborhood.
People are recommended to use approved insect repellents to prevent being bit by the bloodsuckers, and to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants to reduce the chance as well.
A key to keeping the pests down is to make sure the amount of standing water is reduced, and to change the water in items such as dog drinking dishes or bird baths at least once a week.
Turner said one cup of water can breed 250 mosquitoes, while a 5-gallon can half-full of water can breed 10,000 of the insects.
A particular problem is water in old tires. Turner said the combination of standing water and the heat generated in the tires speeds up the life cycle, with thousands of mosquitoes potentially hatching out in just a few days.
The district is looking into starting tire-collection days to reduce that problem, he said.
People can contact the mosquito district at 265-4453.
Control mosquitoes by eliminating their habitat
Homeowners can take the following steps to prevent mosquito breeding on their own property:
• Destroy or dispose of tin cans, old tires, buckets, unused plastic swimming pools or other containers that collect and hold water. Do not allow water to accumulate in the saucers of flowerpots, cemetery urns or in pet dishes for more than two days.
• Clean debris from rain gutters and remove any standing water under or around structures, or on flat roofs. Check around faucets and air conditioner units and repair leaks or eliminate puddles that remain for several days.
• Change the water in birdbaths and wading pools at least once a week and stock ornamental pools with top feeding predacious minnows. Known as mosquito fish, these minnows are about 1 to 1-1/2 inches in length and can be purchased or native fish can be netted from streams and creeks locally. Ornamental pools may be treated with larvicides under certain circumstances. Commercial products can be purchased at many hardware or garden stores for homeowner use.
• Fill or drain puddles, ditches and swampy areas, and either remove, drain or fill tree holes and stumps with mortar.
• Eliminate seepage from cisterns, cesspools and septic tanks.
• Eliminate standing water around animal watering troughs. Flush livestock water troughs twice a week.
• Check for trapped water in plastic or canvas tarps. Arrange the tarp to drain the water.
• Check around construction sites or do-it-yourself improvements to ensure that proper backfilling and grading prevent drainage problems.
• Irrigate lawns and gardens carefully to prevent water from standing for several days.
• If ditches do not flow and contain stagnant water for one week or longer, they can produce large numbers of mosquitoes. Report such conditions to a mosquito control or public health office. Do not attempt to clear these ditches because they may be protected by wetland regulations.