Mosquito season is approaching
DESPITE the extremely windy spring this year, here in the San Luis Valley during early May, temperatures are beginning to warm up. The mountain snowpack begins to melt, and the spring run-off begins. Ranchers, farmers, and property owners start to flood irrigate their pastures and fields. The river rises, which provides sub water pockets and backflows on the outer banks.
These areas soon become mosquito breeding grounds and prime habitat for larval growth.
Even with an expected hot, dry summer this year, within a few short weeks we will begin to see (and feel) our fair share of flying adult mosquitoes. The females are seeking a tasty blood meal with the intent of using the blood’s protein for egg production, all so that she can prepare herself to produce and lay up to 300 eggs. And that is just one cycle. A female mosquito can produce several egg cycles within her life span.
The Alamosa Mosquito Control District has already vigorously started larviciding many areas within the District, treating almost everywhere they go. Staff look for mosquitoes in standing water that are in their larval stage of growth. While in the larval stage, the insects are in a more confined area and in dense populations. They are much easier to control in this state.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
You can make substantial contributions to your own safety by following “the 3 D’s”:
- Drain: Empty out water containers at least once per week
- Dress: Wear long sleeves, long pants, and light-colored, loose-fitting clothing
- Defend: Properly apply an approved repellent such as DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon-eucalyptus or any other EPA-registered repellent
The product used is a bacterium that mosquito larvae find as a food source. Once ingested, the bacteria ruptures the gut and the larval cannot survive. The bacterium is species-specific to mosquito larvae and does not affect other aquatic organisms such as dragon fly larva, water mites, fish, or tadpoles just to name a few. It is biodegradable and does not harm livestock or pets.
Larvicide is and has always been the first line of defense in Alamosa Mosquito Control District’s integrated pest management program. The last week in May or first week in June, the community will start to see and hear fog spray trucks – “Foggers” – or an airplane flying above in rural areas.
The use of foggers and airplane are the second line of defense when adult mosquito populations exceed thresholds found in the District’s surveillance trap network. Adulticide fogging both by truck and airplane can be difficult in our area. The spray that is used can only be appropriately applied if the wind is below 10 miles per hour. The evening winds here in the SLV often hinder the evening spray routes. The spray is designed to contact the mosquito’s body while active in the air, which is one reason why we spray in the evening. The second concern is for bees. Bees begin their day foraging for nectar near dawn and work diligently until dusk before returning to their hive for the night. To preserve the bees, we wait until the evening to spray. AMCD also does its best to keep a look out for hives within the district. If hives are present the fog drivers and pilot are instructed to turn their spray off while passing by.
Mosquitoes are not only a nuisance whose bites cause itchy skin. The biggest concern from Alamosa Mosquito Control District’s standpoint is that they are a public health risk. Mosquitoes are known to carry viruses such as Zika, malaria, dengue fever, encephalitis, and West Nile virus, just to name a few. These viruses can make people very ill, and even be fatal. West Nile virus has been present in Alamosa Mosquito Control District since at least 2003, but has not been detected in a mosquito pool since 2019. However, we continue to test for the virus twice a week and are always ready to respond if and when there is a positive.
Mosquitoes have been around for thousands of years, since the Jurassic Period. It is obviously a hardy insect that has thrived and adapted to all environments. The motto often recited in the mosquito control industry is “it is impossible to eliminate mosquitoes, but we do our best to mitigate them.”
For more information on the operational program and mosquitoes in general, or for contact information, please go to the Alamosa Mosquito Control District website.