Mosquitoes Arrive with Spring

By Beacon Staff

In many areas around the Flathead Valley, the buzzing nuisance of attacking mosquitoes is common. Parks and neighborhoods near standing water become home to springtime’s unwelcome visitors, at least until Flathead County Mosquito Control finds out.

“We like to have people complain. We want the complaints. That’s the only way we are going to find them,” said Joe Russell, public health officer for Flathead County and administrator of the local mosquito task force.

Russell’s team has been gearing up for this year’s insect invasion. The arrival of warm temperatures turns bodies of water, from lakes to simple puddles, into nesting grounds. It’s these sources that Russell’s team wants to hear about.

“We respond to most complaints, if not all complaints, within 24 hours,” he told Kalispell city councilors at a meeting last month. “There’s a good reason for us to respond that fast. If we know there are some adults, we can get out there and kill some of the larva. We want to get out there and kill them as fast as possible and kill them while they’re still in the water.”

Larva control is the best preemptive strike. Compared to the old days when fogger trucks would drive through neighborhoods blasting insecticide into the air, Flathead’s Mosquito Control has directed its present day efforts at finding the source. In most cases a bacteria, like bacillus, that is only toxic to mosquito eggs and black fly larvae is applied to water bodies.

“We have a really good collection of larva controls we can use in different applications around the county,” Russell said.

A new low-volume treatment applicator was used last year in Columbia Falls and was “very effective” at killing adults, too, Russell said. The machine sprayed Scourge, a synthetic pyrethrum chemical. However, the machine is limited to certain areas and situations because of environmental concerns regarding the use of a pesticide, Russell said.

The top priority for Mosquito Control is to defend against mosquito-born diseases like West Nile Virus. A small outbreak in 2006 prompted a mill levy approval that funded the creation of the countywide task force. West Nile is most active during the summer, and that’s when Mosquito Control begins setting out traps and other attractants to eliminate adult insects.

FCMC routinely checks over 1,050 mapped sites in the county for larva and adult activity. Wooded areas have proven difficult for deterring mosquitoes. Lawrence Park, for example, has been identified as a hot bed, but FCMC crews have struggled to eradicate breeding sites.

“We have a lot of still water and can’t get to it all,” he said. “The best thing we can do is continue to identify areas that are problematic and then look at the best way to take care of them.”

To report mosquitoes to the FCMC, call 751-8100. For more information, visit http://flathead.mt.gov/mosquitoes/FlatheadCountyMosquitoControl.php.