Mosquitoes: City official says spraying begins soon

Water still stands in small pools all around Brownfield and playa lakes are full throughout Terry County as a reminder of the storm that dumped as much as four inches of rain and sizeable hail two weeks ago. Although the moisture is considered much needed by many residents in West Texas, the rainfall has the potential of producing millions upon millions more little issues — mosquitoes.

Even more worrisome than the itchy bumps left by the tiny insects is the threat of the spread of viruses like Zika and West Nile.

Spanish for “little fly,” the often pesky creatures normally pose a summertime nuisance, but officials warn the infestation could be even worse this year. A mild winter without an extended freeze could result in more insects of every kind this summer — including mosquitoes. Willie Herrerra, public works director, said city crews will get busy soon, spraying every night for mosquitoes throughout the summer months. “We have our sprayers ready to go and when we start seeing quite a few mosquitoes or start getting more complaints, we’ll roll them out,” he said. “We have the city divided into five sections and we spray two of them every night. So we are hitting every part of town at least twice a week.”

Herrera said city crews have already applied larvacide in common holding ponds and continue to look for standing water, but city officials expect an increase in mosquitoes following recent wet weather. The city employs two spray rigs, which operate about dusk every day, unless the wind exceeds 10 mph or it is raining. The city will concentrate on high-traffic areas like the youth ball fields during summer, where crowds gather in the evenings. Sprayers will pass by the parks prior to games and depending on wind direction, can spray again during the events, if a problem arises.

“We’ll get aggressive if we need to,” Herrera said. “The public can rest easy knowing that all of our sprayers are certified and we know when and where to spray for the best results.”

Mosquitoes go through four distinct stages during their life cycle: egg, larvae, pupae, and adult. Mosquitoes lay their eggs on a water surface and the larva and pupal stages develop in the water. It can take as little as 10 days for an egg to develop into an adult. Therefore, residents need to be proactive in their mosquito management tactics. Management tactics should include several steps which will reduce mosquito populations around homes and protect residents and family members from mosquitoes. Experts suggest local residents, in their quest to keep mosquito populations down, dump out any standing water that will serve as a breeding site for mosquitoes. Places like old tires, bird baths, dog dishes, small swimming pools, buckets and livestock watering troughs. All of these items should be emptied out at least once a week.

Next on the list is yard management.
Keep lawns short and get rid of any weedy areas that will serve as resting sites for adult mosquitoes. All of this will help reduce mosquito populations around homes, but it will not completely eliminate them. To help prevent mosquitoes from entering one’s home, experts suggest residents look for problem areas around the house, such as broken windows and door screens or any gaps around door and window frames. Other tips local residents could use in the prevention of mosquito bites include wearing light colored long sleeve loose-fitting clothing and to avoid being outside at dusk and dawn, as it is at those times when mosquitoes are the most active. Use mosquito fish or other fish species in permanent bodies of water whenever the water will support them. Mosquito fish can be found in other ponds, pet shops or bait stores. Use products such as mosquito dunks to treat permanent water bodies to eliminate larvae.

Mosquito Facts and Protection.
After recent rains in West Texas, mosquitoes are coming. People will be suffering from the annoying itch of mosquito bites. Before you worry about West Nile infection or Zika virus, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center epidemiologist Ronald Warner, D.V.M., Ph.D., reminds us of some facts and methods to prevent this mosquito-borne disease. 

Dr. Warner, in the Department of Family and Community Medicine, said between March and June, “West Nile” mosquitoes prefer to feed on birds such as crows, ravens, robins, sparrows and jays. July to October, these mosquitoes shift their feeding preference to mammals, including humans.

The female mosquitoes need to feast on protein enriched foods (blood) to develop and form their eggs. Once winter arrives adult mosquitoes will seek shelter in attics and under shingles and the bark on trees. Some unhatched mosquito eggs will be resistant to winter weather and survive until the return of spring rains. “Domestic pets, such as dogs and cats, are rarely infected with West Nile but horses, mules and donkeys are much more susceptible,” Warner said. “There are several vaccinations to help prevent your horses from being infected by the West Nile virus.” Depending on a person’s age and health condition, some may have serious effects from West Nile virus, if infected.

Underlying diseases such as hypertension and kidney disease appear to increase the severity of West Nile disease. Younger people, especially transplant patients and others with immune suppression (e.g., cancer treatment), can also suffer severe effects. Outdoor candles, torches and/or coils may be burned to produce a smoke that repels mosquitoes, but make sure the active ingredient contains the oil of citronella. Be aware of general fire hazards and use only under calm or windless weather conditions.

In Texas alone there are approximately 80 different documented species of mosquitoes. The time of year and local weather conditions determine what type of species we will have. Zika, linked to numerous cases of the birth defect micocephaly in Brazil, spread rapidly in Latin America and the Caribbean last summer. Experts warn that the virus will move into the southern United States this year. Aedes aegypti, the mosquito species that primarily transmits the virus, is present in about 30 states.
The World Health Organization has said there is a strong scientific consensus that Zika can cause microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with small heads that can result in developmental problems, as well as Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that can result in paralysis, though proof may take months or years.

Willie Herrerra, public works director, said that species of mosquito is prevalent in other areas of the state, but is not normally found in West Texas. “We’re watching out for it and getting ready for the season,” he said.

Mosquitos normally pose a summertime nuisance, but they could show up earlier if conditions are right. Herrera said city crews regularly monitor known water collection sites around the community for any tell tale signs of the unwanted critters. “We generally go out after some rains and start dipping water to see if we have any signs of mosquitos,” he said. Once they are known to be present, city crews stay busy almost every night spraying for mosquitoes during summer months. “We have the city divided into five sections and we spray two of them every night once we know that a population has emerged,” he said. “So we are hitting every part of town at least twice a week.” 

Herrera said city crews apply larvacide and look for standing water, but city officials expect an increase in mosquitoes following recent wet weather. The city employs two spray rigs, which operate about dusk every day, unless the wind exceeds 10 mph or it is raining. Herrera also said that all of the city employees who operate the spray rigs have attended training sessions so they are knowledgable about the insects and the treatment process. Mosquito populations are likely to increase after the recent rainfall, according to experts with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service.

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