ALAMOSA — Mosquitoes don’t take a holiday, and neither does the Alamosa Mosquito Control District.
Crews from the district will be working on July 4 to make sure residents can celebrate Independence Day with minimal mosquito interference.
“We are going to work on the Fourth of July. We are going to be working all week,” said Alamosa Mosquito Control District Manager Teyler Hurst. “Mosquitoes are out doing what they do best so we will be doing what we do best.”
District crews have been doing what they do best since early April when they began larvacide applications to eradicate as many mosquitoes as possible at the larva stage.
Hurst said beginning larvacide that early is unprecedented.
“Usually we start the end of April,” he said.
However, the runoff was three weeks ahead of schedule, and irrigators who were afraid they might not have water later in the season began running water in ditches, so water began pooling up to host mosquito larvae.
“We had water in places that hadn’t seen water in several years,” Hurst said.
Previous dry spots where eggs had lain dormant for years became active once water returned to them, he said.
The recent rains also brought a resurgence in the mosquito population.
“We are finding hoof prints with thousands of mosquitoes in them just from the rain,” Hurst said.
While crews are still busy with larvacide, other crews are maintaining fogging operations against the adult mosquitoes. Fogging usually begins around Memorial Day and continues throughout the mosquito season.
Assistant Manager Sarah Cantu added that because of cooler temperatures, the adult mosquito population was not as active until about two weeks after Memorial Day this year.
Hurst said district staff has found fewer mosquitoes in the 18 light traps the district uses to determine when and where to focus fogging operations.
“Our daily totals have been half as much as years prior,” he said.
While in 2011/2012 the daily totals in the traps were between 4,000 and 6,000 mosquitoes, this year the daily counts have totaled 1,700. Monday night the totals were only 300 due to the wind and the rain.
Hurst attributed the declines in totals to cooler nights and perhaps even the smoky skies from the fires. In addition, the decrease in totals is associated with the dry year, just the lack of water.
“There’s some water — enough to keep us busy,” he added, “but in comparison, it’s pretty dry out there.”
The mosquito district now owns its own plane for aerial applications and this year has flown twice with good success rates. The first application was at the southern border of the district along the 13 South, and the second aerial application was in the northwest corner of the district. The district does not perform aerial applications over the city.
Cantu said the district began testing for West Nile Virus in mosquito populations about two weeks ago and will continue through the season. She explained the district began using a new test last year, the RAMP test, which is more accurate than the West Nile test previously used by the district. Results are available within an hour and a half. This new test is 90 percent accurate while the previous test was 60 percent accurate, Hurst added.
He said so far the Alamosa district has not found any mosquitoes positive for West Nile, but the type of mosquitoes that are the main carriers for the disease are more active in warmer temperatures. When the Valley sees temperatures of 90 degrees on a daily basis, West Nile-carrying mosquitoes could become more prevalent.
“We are staying on top of things,” Hurst said.
The district is also keeping up with social media sites and now has a Facebook page and a new revamped interactive web site where residents can watch videos, learn about mosquito prevention and track the district’s control efforts.
The web site is www.mosquitobytes.org/
In addition, the district has a fogging hotline that can be reached at 1-877-919-5220. It is generally updated daily on weekdays. Residents can call to find out the general areas where fogging will take place on a given day. The district’s main phone line is 589-5409. The district’s email is: email@example.com
“Our doors are always open,” Hurst added. “We would love to talk to anybody about any of their concerns, questions or comments.”
The district has worked with property owners with specific problem areas or specific requests.
For folks who prefer mosquito prevention methods other than chemicals, the district has provided natural mosquito repelling plant seeds such as lemon grass, beebalm, marigolds and citronella.
In 2014 the district will start a bat box project as well. Even though mosquitoes comprise only about 7 percent of bats’ diets, bats are one of the mosquitoes’ predators, and there are currently not many bats in Alamosa County.
The district staff and board try to work with all groups in a cooperative manner. For example, they have been communicating with beekeepers about their concerns.
The district reminds folks of the four “D’s” to fight mosquito bites: Drain standing water; Dress in long sleeves and pants with socks and shoes; Dusk and dawn are mosquitoes’ favorite times of day — avoid them; and DEET is the best insect repellant. DEET concentrations vary from product to product and in how much protection they provide.