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People urged to help control mosquitoes


Havre Daily News/Ryan Berry

People run across 3rd Avenue as Josh Miller, a spray technician for the Hill County Mosquito Control District, drives around town fogging for mosquitoes Tuesday in Havre. Miller said the chemical being sprayed into the air is called Permanone, which is a derivative of the chrysanthemum flower and is safe for humans to be around. Miller said that since the chemical comes from a flower, it can trigger some people's seasonal allergies so he recommends going inside for a moment as his truck passes if allergies are a concern.

This week is National Mosquito Awareness Week, and Terry Turner, supervisor of the Hill County Mosquito Control District, said that although the Mosquito Control District has made great strides since 2004, people should still try to do their part to minimize the number of mosquitoes in the area.

"If you are having mosquitoes in your yard all the time, there is a source nearby," he said.

Mosquitoes carry and transmit a number of diseases, incuding West Nile and Zika viruses, and are the number one killer in the world, Turner said. The local mosquito control districts do their part to control the insects, trapping them to see how many are prevalent and testing them for disease, as well as using larvicide that prevents larvae from maturing into mosquitos and, when the weather cooperates, using fog to kill the adults.

Turner said that one cup of water can produce up to 250 mosquitos and a 5 gallon bucket that is half full can produce up to 10,000. Standing bodies of water around an acre in size could produce billions of mosquitoes, he said, adding that mosquitoes do not breed in running water.

Tires in people's yards or unmanaged property and sagging rain gutters can also breed a large amount of mosquitoes, Turner said. Tires can heat up to approximately 130 degrees Fahrenheit and hatch mosquito larvae in three days. Areas with a large number or tires can breed 40,000 mosquitoes. He added that people should recycle their tires and manage their properties if they want lower number of mosquitoes.

The Mosquito Control District first started in 2004, right when West Nile virus hit the United States, he said. Before, mosquitoes were a huge problem in the area, where people couldn't go out to grill or enjoy their porches or walk down the street because it was so bad outside.

"It's beautiful now," he said. "... It's changed the lifestyle."

In the first trap that was set up in 2004, 4,000 mosquitoes were caught, he said. Now the population is much lower.

In Hill County they have found 13 different species of mosquitoes.

The traps, he said, no longer use light, but release carbon dioxide to attract mosquitoes specifically, rather than other insects. Once the mosquitoes are trapped, they are sent to Carroll College in Helena for testing to see if they have the West Nile virus or other diseases. He added that the district also has testing capabilities.

It is important that people dump out or change standing water, such as changing their pet's water regularly, clearing tarps and emptying children's swimming pools, Turner said.

The American Mosquito Control Association lists tips on removing mosquito breeding grounds:

• Dispose of tires;

• Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers;

• Clear roof gutters of debris;

• Clean pet water dishes regularly;

• Check and empty children's toys;

• Repair leaky outdoor faucets;

• Change water in bird baths at least once a week;

• Turn over canoes and other boats;

• Prevent water from collecting on swimming pool covers and tarps around the yard;

• Plug tree holes, fill in ruts and holes, and

• Keep water out of bottles, buckets, barrels, overturned garbage can lids and so on.

He added that if communities want to start their own mosquito district he is willing to help them with the process. Hill County district covers Havre to 6 miles south, 7 miles north, 7 west and then to Blaine County Line. But people outside of the district can also request they come out and perform barrier treatments to combat high number of mosquitoes.

People can also reduce their chances by being bitten by mosquitoes by wearing light-colored clothing, planting specific shrubs and plants that naturally repel mosquitoes and not eating bananas, he said. However, mosquitoes are mostly drawn by the blood type of the person.

He said mosquitoes in this area this year will probably have a high chance of carrying West Nile virus. It is predicted to be a dry year and, although mosquitoes need water to breed, this means mosquitoes will most likely be swarming waterbeds where animals and people are, concentrating the species that carries the virus in the area.

Wyoming already reported a case of West Nile, he added.

Many of the mosquitoes only travel about a mile at the most, although some can travel up to 15 to 30 miles, he said. 

The ones that carry the disease, Culex tarsalis, tend to be night-time mosquitoes in the area, he said. No Zika virus has been detected here, although it is possible that it will be down the road.

People who vacation outside of Montana or visit Montana from out of the state, usually either from the coastal areas or the tropical have a chance to bring and spread diseases to the area.

"We're seven-and-a-half hours away from our next disease," he said.

People should be careful where they travel and double check what diseases are in the area to which they are traveling, he said. Most airports have a list of diseases in the area as well. He added that he suggests pregnant women not go to the tropics because of the chance of being infected with the Zika virus.

DEET is one of the most effective ways to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes, he said, but there is another spray, Moskito Care, which is also effective. He added that he is working to have Moskito Care available at North 40 Outfitters and Havre Home and Hardware.

The district does water treatment, dropping pellets in standing water if mosquito larvae is detected, he said, adding the pellets are not harmful to people or other animals. The pellets prevent the larvae from developing into adult mosquitoes.

Shakers with the pellets can be picked up at the mosquito district office, Ezzie's Wholesale Inc. or at Havre Home and Hardware.

"We can control the population of mosquitoes before they hatch out," she said.

Havre Daily News/Ryan Berry

Josh Miller fogs in front of First Presbyterian Church while covering one of his routes Tuesday in Havre. Miller has been with the mosquito district for four years.

The district also fogs every three days, depending on the weather, but the mosquitoes have to be airborne for it to be effective. The fog is a derivative of the chrysanthemum and are not harmful to other people or animals unless they are allergic to the flower. He added that he suggests that if people hear the fogging truck coming to stir the mosquitos in their yard to get them airborne because some tend to hid in the grass.

The district also has put in the budget for a new fogger, so it will have four foggers, he said. All the foggers are computer controlled and monitored to assure the district is properly covered and tracked.

"We want to get the biggest bang for our buck on the amount of mosquitos we kill," he said.


Online: Hill County Weed and Mosquito District's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Hill-County-Weed-and-Mosquito-District-1201484460030547/

Hill County Mosquito Control District website: http://hillcounty.us/departments/mosquito-district/.

American Mosquito Control Association: https://www.mosquito.org/.


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