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UPDATE: Mosquito madness gearing up

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news Fargo, 58102
West Fargo Pioneer
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Fargo North Dakota 101 5th Street North 58102

What a difference a day makes in the mosquito fight.

Since Monday the mosquito count in area traps has risen from five to around 30 causing Cass County Vector Control officials to schedule ground spraying in both West Fargo and Fargo (weather permitting) tonight (Wednesday, June 12) starting at 8:30 p.m.

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In the interview conducted Monday right, it was indicated that because of the consistently low counts, that timing for spraying this week was perhaps a little too premature.

The following story went to press immediately following that interview.

How does the recent rainfall and cooler temps play into the local mosquito population?

If anything, it’s helped keep the pesky little critters at bay, with the most recent teap data showing mosquito counts holding at around the five average.

What this means is that ground fogging typically necessary this time of the summer likely won’t occur this week, according to Cass County Vector Control Director Ben Prather. “Right now it’s looking like Monday’s collection is telling us to wait a little longer. Likely, there is a greater than 50 percent chance, if anything, we will be focusing on daylight hours for adult control backpack sprayers and  ATV-mounted units to do a barrier-like application spray.”

Right now trap count numbers are looking pretty good thanks to the cool weather and breezy conditions. For ground spraying (fogging) Prather said the established nuisance threshold set by the Vector Control Board is 35 female mosquitoes on average of the 20 some traps. He added that disease also becomes another issue. “We are flexible in general but we look at a nuisance occurring at the 35 count.”

The need for aerial spraying is also driven by a nuisance threat, but on much higher tallies in the 200 to 300 range for a trap count.

He said these sprayings are generally done around the time of community events, i.e. the Fourth of July holiday which becomes a prime time for both the adult mosquito and for people to gather. “But you can never tell,” he added. “We are not in the business to guess.”

Prather said that mosquito control so far has been kind of a challenge and not what is typically expected at this time in June.

In a nutshell, the campaign to this point has been an all-out aggressive one. “We are trying to be as proactive as possible with larva control. All in all we’ve made a lot of field inspections and conducted a lot of pesticide treatments to eliminate the larvae in the standing water.”

Over 8000 inspections checking 2000 to 3000 sites have taken place so far countywide and in West Fargo alone about 1150 inspections of 300 to 500 sites have occurred.

“We’ve put forth a tremendous effort, perhaps a lot more than we had to put forth last year for nuisance type mosquitoes,” Prather noted. So much so that compared to 2012, crews have surpassed the amount of product used countywide for all of last year or very near to that point. “If we haven’t already, we will eclipse that  soon within the next 30 days but then that’s to be expected with over five inches of rain,” he added.

In West Fargo alone about 260 pesticide applications have been completed which is pretty much on par with the number of applications used last year.

Prather explained  that typically adult mosquitoes are actively monitored pretty much the first or second week in May. “This year, those numbers have been incredibly low so far compared to other years at this point. Some days there have been less than one mosquito per trap which is kind of remarkable but that has to do with temperature because the cooler weather has slowed them down.

“All of May we were out treating in less than stellar weather but that really helped to bring the count down. It made a difference that we were able to do that, and that is why we are having good results early on.”

Prather admits that it is still too early to tell how the mosquito battle is going to go and what should be anticipated. “We plan for the worst as always and hope for the best. We are waiting for adult mosquitoes to be high enough  to do truck fogging. We had this time pegged to start fogging, but fortunately that has been delayed. It’s not easy to pin down, that’s why we rely on our trap data.”

Prather said another consideration is always expense involved. “We don’t just wantonly spray. We don’t want to be throwing down pesticides when we see a puddle. We try to be frugal and cautious and keep an eye on the cost and want to have solid evidence that we should spray so we don’t have to do two applications and waste money.”

In West Fargo mosquito control is funded by a 50 cent surcharge collected from each resident and business on their monthly utility bill. City Administrator Jim Brownlee said this adds up to $65,000 which is the annual contracted amount with vector control.

Brownlee said the city makes every attempt to stay within the budget but if more funding is needed, which has happened in the past, the money is taken from the general fund.

“The contract says that once we reach budget which is $65,000 we can ask them (vector control) to stop but we’ve never done that,” Brownlee stated. “We will dip into the general fund if it gets really bad and if we need to. We will spend whatever it takes to get the job done.”

Brownlee said the expensive part is the aerial spraying at $17,000 to $20,000 per application with the ground spray applications at about $2000 each.

“We try to stay within our budget. Some years we do and some years it’s way off. In planning it all we try to be very cautious. The ideal thing is deciding between the larviciding, ground spraying and aerial spraying and what is the most effective method for control. We’re pretty much driven by trap count numbers and when the trap counts get up to 100 it gets pretty nasty. Our problem is like everybody elses. Mosquitoes don’t  stop at city lines. If Fargo and Moorhead are spraying and West Fargo isn’t we try to coordinate all three entities especially for aerial applications.”

No matter what, Brownlee said the city is committed to mosquito control and working along side vector control, praising Prather highly. “Ben does an excellent job in his position and with his staff.”

Prather has been involved with vector control since 2003 and is spending his fifth year in the lead position with Cass County Vector Control.

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