For Release May 28, 2002

Mosquitoes and You

AGRI-VIEWS
by Chuck Otte, Geary County Extension Agent

The past several years we have had warm and dry spring weather. Warm and dry springs usually result in far fewer mosquito problems. This year is shaping up as a somewhat wetter spring and if you havenít started to notice it yet, there are more mosquitoes. Unfortunately, the number of mosquitoes is bound to increase as we go through the next month or so.

To complicate matters, the press has been full of the "disease du jour", West Nile Virus. What most people know about West Nile Virus (WNV) is that it is mosquito borne, it kills birds and people have died from it. So, letís talk a little bit about mosquitoes and a little bit about West Nile Virus.

We have several species of mosquitoes in Kansas. They all have slightly different preferences in habitat and brood rearing, but they all need shallow, stagnant water to reproduce. That shallow water can come from a plugged rain gutter, a pet water dish or a bird bath that is not changed regularly, tires or tin cans that collect water or even the saucer under a house or deck plant that always holds water. Moving water, deep water, or water with lots of wave action will not breed mosquitoes.

It seems that people always want to spray lots of pesticides whenever a heavy mosquito year comes along. Pesticide spraying and neighborhood fogging does very little to reduce mosquito populations. You are better off to eliminate breeding pools of water, starting in your own backyard. If you have shallow stagnant water that can not be drained, there are biological controls that are very effective. Contact the county extension office for more information on these treatments.

Personal protection is a far better approach to dealing with mosquitoes. Wear long sleeves and long trousers. Treat exposed skin with DEET containing repellents as directed by the label of your particular product. A few people are sensitive to DEET so if you seem to be having a reaction, wash the product off your skin and talk to your doctor. Parents, do not over apply repellents to children. Read the label and retreat as directed, not more often!

West Nile Virus is a disease that was first found in the eastern United States in 1999. In its most severe form it can produce a fatal encephalitis in humans. WNV has been moving across the country at a rapid rate the past three years. It was found in eastern Missouri late in 2001. While it has not been detected yet in Kansas, it is certainly likely to be detected in Kansas sometime this year.

Should you be concerned about WNV? Certainly. But just the same as you should for other mosquito borne encephalitis vectors that are already in the state and have been for years. Be alert to flu like illnesses and use personal protection measures to reduce the risk of mosquito bites.

The state of Kansas is expanding their testing and surveillance for WNV this year. While many species of birds can die from WNV, crows and blue jays are the most susceptible and these two species will be tested by the state. There is a toll free hotline that discusses this testing and how to access the service. That toll free number is 1-866-452-7810. There is also a very good web page on WNV at: http://www.oznet.ksu.edu/westnilevirus. If you need more information on mosquitoes or West Nile Virus, please contact me at the Geary County Extension Office, 785-238-4161, or stop by the office at 119 East 9th, Junction City.

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