Not to be a buzz kill, but skeeter peak is near
As we enter July, summer is in full swing, with outdoor activities topping to do lists – but with the peak of summer also comes the peak of mosquito season.
Jennifer House from the Colorado Department of Health said that it is difficult to say this early in the season whether this year holds more or less mosquitoes than last year. She said mosquito activity usually picks up in July and carries pretty steadily through September.
“We are not in our normal peak season, but that is not to say we will not peak early this year,” House said.
Steve Anthony, vegetation manager for Garfield County, said that weather could have a large effect on the numbers we see this year. He said hot weather in June will definitely contribute to more mosquitoes.
In order to determine the mosquito population in an area, Anthony and his team set up traps that are checked weekly. The data gathered is compared with that from other municipalities in the area, which helps guide management efforts.
Skeeter fighters look for both the quantity of mosquitoes captures and the species. More significantly, they look for Culex tarsalis, the carrier of the West Nile virus.
This year, Colorado has recorded two confirmed cases of West Nile, according to House, both on the Front Range.
A human case has not been confirmed on the Western Slope since 2007, but Anthony advises that it is still important to take precautionary measures, because the species is present.
“Mesa County probably has more Culex than we do,” Anthony said, “but there is still a fair amount here. For example, at the Lions Pond rest area in Rifle, the traps have found a significant amount. The numbers do lessen as you travel east towards Silt, New Castle and Glenwood Springs.”
Culex tarsalis thrive in habitats that have standing bodies of water and dense vegetation, and can be present in elevations from 5,000 to 7,500 feet.
Another mosquito known as Aedes aegypti, the one that carries the Zika virus, is not a concern in Colorado.
“Between the altitude, temperature and the dryness of our environment, it’s not a good place for those types of mosquitoes. But it’s perfect for the ones that translate West Nile virus,” House said.
People can take steps to reduce the risk of mosquitoes. When there are patterns of moisture — such as in the forecast for this weekend — people should be more careful around their homes.
“One coffee can full of water in a backyard can breed 10,000 mosquitos in the summer,” Anthony said. “We need to be thinking about what is around the house, like water bowls and birdbaths. The most common thing would probably be old tires. Anything like that can collect water.”
House’s advice for avoiding mosquitoes falls in line with Anthony’s. She recommends the “Four Ds”: 1) Drain any standing water on your property, 2) Dusk to dawn — people should avoid being outside from dusk to dawn, which is when West Nile mosquitos are most active, 3) Dress in protective clothing like long sleeves and long pants to cover as much skin and possible and 4) DEET, which is a common ingredient in insect repellents.
“There’s no need to panic,” Anthony said. “I just want to encourage people to be aware of the risk and take those extra precautionary measures.
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