Havre Daily News - News you can use

Mosquito district provides recommendations for upcoming mosquito season


Havre Daily News/Jack Lambert

Two Hill County Mosquito District exterminator trucks are parked May 20 inside a shop at the City of Havre Road Department which houses the Hill County Weed and Mosquito control districts.

The Hill County Mosquito Control District is preparing for another mosquito season and is trying to provide information to the public about how they can help prevent the insect's population from getting out of control.

Mosquito District Supervisor Terry Turner said the number one thing people can do to avoid being "eaten alive" is to empty any standing water on their property and make sure no open containers of water are lying around.

Turner said birdbaths especially should be emptied and refilled every couple of days.

"Just don't have any stagnant water sitting around. With the warmer temperatures that we're getting mosquitos can hatch in about two to four days," Turner said, "... Generally, one cup of water can generate 250 mosquitos, a five-gallon bucket of water half-full can produce up to 10,000."

He said dripping faucets and rain gutters can also be culprits in mosquito population explosions.

Turner said people with large bodies of water near their residence should call the district so they can treat it.

He also said he recommends wearing light colored, loose clothes with long sleeves and long pants in the evening since nocturnal mosquitos are the ones that carry most diseases.

As for personal mosquito repellant he personally recommends picaridin. Turner said it's slightly less effective than Deet, but smells much better and lasts six to eight hours.

He also recommended going to the American Mosquito Control Association's website at https://www.mosquito.org, for educational tools.

Employees of the mosquito district are now checking water bodies for mosquito larva, trying to catch them before the pupal stage when they become more difficult to control, using larvicide pellets that they put in the water to control them.

He said Altosid pellets in particular are extremely useful because they prevent the mosquitoes from reaching the adult stage without killing them.

"Eventually they die off, but they stay alive for other things in the water to eat on them so yeah, fantastic product," he said.

Turner said there will always be those that reach the adult stage before the district can get to them and they require different chemicals, called adulticides, to kill.

He said these treatments usually last for 28 days before they need to be redone.

"We try to start doing that when the weather starts warming up," he said.

He said the district employees perform "landing counts" in places they receive complaints about, letting mosquitos land on them to judge whether or not the population is high enough to use their chemicals. Three to five in a minute is usually enough to use the adulticide, which Turner said, has a very low rate of allergic reaction.

"If people have a large amount of mosquitos in the area I encourage them to give us a call," he said.

Turner said the biggest concern for the district is preventing the transmission of West Nile Virus, but he said, there are other diseases that can be transmitted, like Easter equine encephalitis.

He said there are a number of other transmittable diseases out in other parts of the country and the world that he is concerned about as well.

"Dengue fever is starting to come back a little bit and malaria is starting to pop up," he said, "Mosquitos around the world kill roughly a million people a year, it's one of the biggest killers in the world. ... It's a really sad situation."

Another concern he has is that the kind of mosquito that carries Zika Vvrus is slowly adapting to spread further north and may eventually reach Montana, though that possibility is still some time away.

There is no scientific evidence that novel coronavirus 2019 is transmittable by mosquito, but Turner does still have some concerns regarding the effect the virus might have in the midst of mosquito season.

"We don't know what's going to happen when a mosquito disease crosses with the coronavirus, we don't have any data on that yet," he said.

Turner said the pandemic has not had an effect on the district's ability to obtain the supplies needed to deal with the mosquito season, but it has had effects on training new employees which has needed to be done virtually.

This year the district is slightly short on employees this season and the virtual training has been a bit of a complication.

Turner also said district also may not be able to send full mosquito traps to Carroll College or Bozeman for study because campuses have been closed.

"I don't have the man-power to go through and identify all of the mosquitoes we collect," he said.

However, Turner said, these setbacks shouldn't hamper the districts effectiveness in controlling mosquito populations, but they will need to put in a bit more work to stay in top shape.

"We'll probably be working a little bit of extra hours," he said.

Turner also said the district funding is a potential concern that may need to be addressed the next few years, though he said, he hopes to keep prices at their current level for a few more years.

"We are cutting it a little close on the dollars, so a few years maybe down the road we may be asking for a little more funding," he said.

Turner, who is also the coordinator for the Hill County Weed Department, talked about recent developments in invasive weeds as well.

"Over the years, I've seen the Noxious Weed List go from 15 that we used to control, we're up to 32 weeds for the state of Montana," he said.

Turner said the recent arrival of houndstongue is their biggest concern at the moment.

"Houndstongue is a relatively new weed in the area that has just exploded," he said, "... It snags onto blue jeans, it snags onto anything that moves, it transports to different locations. We're finding it from the creek bottoms all the way to the tops of mountains."

Turner said this particular weed is extremely troublesome because it's poisonous to almost all classes of livestock, capable of slowly shutting down their organs eventually killing them six to eight months later after being ingested.

"Kind of a horrible death," he said.

Turner said an insect is used to control the weed in countries like Canada, but it's not approved in the United States because it was also thought to feed on some endangered plant species as well. But, he said recent studies have shown that the fear was unsubstantiated, and he hope that the U.S. can get its hands on it soon.

He said livestock producers should be extremely careful that they are not letting houndstongue get into their hay.

Turner said the progress the Weed Department has made on controlling weeds like common burdock would have been more difficult without the financial support of people in the area.

Voters recently approved additional funding for the weed district.

"I'd like to thank the people out there who voted for the four mils, it sure helped us out immensely," he said.


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