Men in Green: Mosquito patrols headed to county |

Men in Green: Mosquito patrols headed to county

Jeremy Heiman
Special to the Post Independent

If you see some guys in green T-shirts carrying strange-looking devices and climbing a fence in your neighborhood, relax. They’re probably not terrorists. They’re most likely technicians from Colorado Mosquito Control, Inc., the company hired by Garfield County to reduce the risk of West Nile virus.

Colorado Mosquito Control President Michael McGinnis briefed Garfield County’s West Nile Virus Task Force Tuesday on the work to be done by his company in the coming months. He took the opportunity to introduce the company’s new green

T-shirt, modeled by Pete Bonkrude, who will be operations manager for the company’s work in the county.

“We’re going to be identifiable,” McGinnis said. Technicians placing mosquito traps in back lots and fields won’t be as suspicious if they’re wearing matching T-shirts, he said, as they would be in flannel shirts.

Placing mosquito traps is one part of surveillance, an important step in mosquito control. Surveillance is necessary, because, McGinnis said, no one knows exactly what kinds of mosquitoes exist in Garfield County at this point, or in what quantities.

“Right now, we have a pretty steep learning curve in front of us,” he said.

Mapping effort comes first

Bonkrude and his staff will complete the mapping, an important part of the project, over the next two to three weeks. The idea is to locate the areas where mosquitoes are likely to breed.

The company wants to enlist the help of the public in the mapping effort, McGinnis said.

“We want to encourage people to call us and let us know where there is standing water, so we can be as accurate as possible with this mapping,” he said.

Colorado Mosquito Control uses several surveillance techniques, include trapping of adult mosquitoes and what McGinnis called larva dipping ” literally dipping samples of water and examining them to identify mosquito larvae.

Dipping has to be done thoroughly, because no assumptions can be made. Culex mosquitoes, the main carrier of West Nile, might be found in standing water on one side of a road but not on the other.

“There’s no substitute for getting your feet wet,” McGinnis said.

Live trapping of adult mosquitoes, to determine whether the culex species of mosquitoes is present, and to determine whether they are actually carrying West Nile virus, will begin in May. Culex mosquitoes are the primary carrier of the virus, but other mosquito species exist here as well.

Treatments to begin this month

In the next two to three weeks, the company will begin its larvicide treatments of standing water. The larvicide used will be the bacterial agents Bacillus thuringiensis israeliensis and Bacillus sphaericus, which only attack mosquito larvae.

Bti is sold in donut-shaped cakes that are placed in shallow water. Bacillus sphaericus is distributed as a granular substance that can be spread by hand or sprayed as a wet mixture. These products are also available for sale to the public. (See related story.)

Spraying of chemical insecticides, intended to kill adult mosquitoes, will only be done locally at times when large numbers of mosquitoes escape the larvicide efforts, McGinnis said.

“It really needs to be based on surveillance,” he said, “whereas the larvicide program goes on all summer long.”

2004 expected to be worse for West Nile

County residents who don’t want their property sprayed, McGinnis said, should contact Colorado Mosquito Control, 303-558-8730.

Neither the company nor the county has a responsibility to contact anyone before spraying, he said, except those few people on Colorado’s State Registry of Pesticide Sensitive Residents.

Ray Merry, of Eagle County’s Environmental Health Department, repeated to the task force that residents should be told over and over to use insect repellent, especially at dawn and dusk.

He said it’s important that people know they should take personal responsibility for preventing West Nile virus infection, rather than expecting the government to protect them, because no mosquito control effort will achieve complete success.

West Nile virus infected 2,945 Colorado residents last year, and killed 55 in the state. The disease is known to be most virulent in the second year it affects an area.

West Nile was first seen on Colorado’s Western Slope in the summer of 2003, so 2004 is expected to be a bad year, officials say. The disease first affected the plains and foothills of eastern Colorado in 2002.

Contact Jeremy Heiman:

945-8515, ext. 534

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