County doubling down on mosquito control after flooding

Heavy rains and flooding so far this year in Cascade County are causing the county to do double to triple the amount of mosquito treatment.

During a special meeting on Thursday, County Commissioners approved an additional $45,000 for additional chemicals for mosquito treatment. Mary Embleton, county budget officer, said the funds are covered by the existing cash reserves in the mosquito fund.

Established in 1967 in Cascade County, the mosquito control program typically runs April through September as a public health safety program, said Joshua Blystone, superintendent of the Weed and Mosquito Division.

The program is funded by a dedicated tax mill and the budget for the year ending today, June 30, was about $350,000, Blystone told The Electric.

In addition to Blystone, there are two other full-time employees in the Weed and Mosquito Division. Within the mosquito program, there are 11 seasonal employees, 10 sprayers and one lab technician.

The begin spraying on a weekly basis in April with a focus on larvae in an attempt to prevent them from becoming adults that pester and feed on humans, pets and livestock.

The county uses products that are more environmentally friendly and are species specific for mosquitoes, Blystone said. The biological control, a bacteria, is sprayed onto bodies of water and when the mosquitoes ingest it, the bacteria essentially causes the mosquitoes to explode from the inside, Blystone said.

They also use a growth hormone that, if mosquitoes come into contact with it, prevents them from becoming adults.

The county has also been fogging since May five to six nights a week. The county has two fogging trucks, but they don’t always run both each night.

Blystone said they fog based on traps, areas they know have mosquito problems and based on citizen calls.

The crews have been south of town along both sides of the river, almost every week for the last month.

Bootlegger Trail is another big area for the mosquito control program and the county uses specialty products in the area that typically last for about a month, Blystone said. Most other areas are treated weekly.

The division also treats areas with adults and actively traps mosquitoes for testing at the county lab. They’re looking for West Nile Virus and if it tests positives, the sample is sent to the state health lab. If the positive is confirmed, the county works with the City-County Health Department to notify the public and take any necessary action, Blystone said. There are 32 test sites throughout the county and so far there have been no confirmed cases of WNV in the county.

West Nile first appeared in Cascade County in 2002, Blystone said, and it’s been present every year since but the prevalence fluctuates depending on temperatures, rainfall and other environmental conditions.

The division uses GIS software and have mapped most of the pond sites they know of that will hold water for one to two weeks, Blystone said.

Right now the focus is along the rivers and retracing their steps in many areas of the county due to the flooding.

Many of the products the county uses have a long residual, but the flooding washes it away.

“We spent all this time treating all these bodies of water,” Blystone said. “It flooded and now we have to spray all those spots again and it created more habitats for mosquitoes.”

Because of the flooding, there’s likely to be more mosquitoes this summer but those are less likely to carry West Nile, Blystone said. There’s one species in particular the county looks for since they’re most likely to carry West Nile because of their preference to feed on birds, which are carriers.

To protect yourself against mosquitoes, use these tips from the City-County Health Department:
  • DEET-Apply repellent containing an EPA-registered active ingredient, such as DEET, and follow the directions on the package.
  • DUSK and DAWN-This is when mosquitoes are most active. Try to avoid outdoor activities during these times.
  • DRAIN STANDING WATER-Standing water is the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. Drain such areas around your home (gutters, pools, tires, buckets, water bowls, etc.).
  • DRESS APPROPRIATELY-Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks.