Following a schedule of its own, a pesky — and potentially dangerous — insect is making its annual debut in the area days ahead of its own awareness week.
June 22-28 is National Mosquito Control Awareness Week, but north-central Montanans have been noticing the blood-sucking pest out en masse early this week and last.
Terry Turner, supervisor of the Hill County Mosquito District, said 2104 looks to be a year especially heavy with mosquitoes, with water providing potential breeding sites everywhere.
The American Mosquito Control Association during Mosquito Control Awareness Week — and for the entire year — promotes “the three Ds” of protection from mosquitoes — drain, dress and defend.
The Hill County district does take action, including using a fogger to kill mature mosquitoes when weather conditions allow for spraying. District personnel also add pellets in standing water. The pellets prevent the larvae from maturing into adult mosquitoes.
Turner said the district has shakers with those pellets available free of charge to district residents at the Hill County Extension Office in the bottom floor of the Hill County Courthouse and at Barkus Home Center on the 300 Block of 2nd Avenue.
Along with the irritation of being bitten by a mosquito — only the females suck blood, as the males live off of plant juices, the Hill County Mosquito District web page says — comes the risk of getting mosqito-borne diseases, including possibly deadly illnesses. People and animals including horses, dogs and birds can contract the diseases.
Those mosquito-borne illnesses include the West Nile Virus as well as malaria, yellow fever, dengue, different forms of encephalitis and dog heartworm.
Along with draining any standing water on or near their property, people can avoid mosquito bites with the last two Ds — dressing and defending.
The American Mosquito Control Association recommends that people wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothes to help prevent mosquito bites. Some species of mosquitoes in the United States are attracted to darker-colored clothing and most can bite through tight-fitting loose-weaved clothing.
Environmental Protection Agency-approved mosquito repellent also can prevent bites. Turner said most experts consider the most effective to be products including DEET, the abbreviation for the chemical name N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide.
The Mosquito Control Association also lists picaradin, oil of lemon eucalyptus and IR3535 as effective repellents.
And draining standing water is a key to reducing the number of mosquitoes on people’s property. Hundreds, or thousands, of the insects can come out of a seemingly tiny bit of moisture can produce
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. 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.