When it comes to mosquitoes and the West Nile virus, there’s good news and bad news.
The good news is that only female mosquitoes bite. The bad news is it’s pretty much impossible for the average person to identify a male mosquito from a female just by looking. So we’re better off to just avoid all mosquitoes.
Randy Gerard, manager of the West Umatilla Mosquito Control District (WUMCD), was the guest speaker Thursday at the monthly luncheon of the Umatilla Chamber of Commerce. Gerard said there are about 2,500 different species of mosquitoes in the world; about 150 in the United States; and 12 in West Umatilla County. It may or may not be surprising that these tiny little insects cause more pain and suffering than any other living creature on earth, killing as many as a million people each year, though most of those deaths occur in under-developed nations. In many of those cases, the cause of death is malaria.
In our part of the world, mosquitoes are most closely associated with the West Nile virus. Mosquitoes become carriers of the virus after biting a bird, often a crow, that is infected with West Nile. Once the mosquito picks up the virus, it can transmit it to others, including humans or horses. That’s fairly rare, said Gerard. The last known case of West Nile in West Umatilla County was back in 2009. That’s largely because of the work done by the WUMCD. The district conducts regular surveillance programs to identify mosquito populations and works diligently to reduce or eliminate them.
“The three most important words in mosquito control are surveillance, surveillance and surveillance,” Gerard said.
So far in 2013, the district has conducted 350 inspections and treated 243 of those areas. The district is also working hard to create public awareness of the dangers of mosquitoes and the work it does to control them.
“It’s amazing how many people don’t even know we exist,” Gerard said. But we are now getting into the West Nile season, so awareness is important.
One of the most effective preventative measures people can take to keep mosquitoes away is to make sure there is no standing water on their property. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. It can be a pond or even just a little water gathered in your roof gutter.
“A small kiddie swimming pool can infest a whole neighborhood,” said Gerard. But don’t worry – you don’t have to rip out your decorative yard pond. The WUMCD provides mosquito fish that feed on mosquitos.
But eliminating standing water doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve gotten rid of the mosquito threat. Gerard recommends calling the district if you’ve discovered mosquitoes around your property. They’ll come out, free of charge, to make sure the threat is gone for good.
There’s a couple of ways to learn more about the West Umatilla Mosquito Control District and the work they do. They’ll be at the Hermiston FunFest this Saturday or you can visit the district’s website for everything you need to know and then some.