Getting rid of summer 'skeeters

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From irrigated fields to backyard ponds, standing water in the summer means mosquito-breeding season, and that keeps Moffat County Pest Management Supervisor Chad Sasges very busy.

"A female mosquito lays 250 eggs at a time," Sasges said. "That makes thousands of mosquitoes pretty quickly."

Sasges and his crew of seasonal employees already have been at work attacking mosquito larvae in standing water near the river and the golf course. Their approach includes biological, mechanical, and chemical programs integrated to destroy mosquitoes in multiple ways.

The best way to stop the mosquitoes is to catch them before they can fly, Sasges said. Using a larvaecide, the crews experience a 98 percent success rate in controlling the population in the areas where they concentrate spraying.

When the mosquitoes are old enough to fly, the county's two fog trucks begin their job of laying down a fog layer at ground level to eradicate the pests. Driving city and county roads mostly at night, when the mosquitoes are most active, these trucks are called out as needed when a pest population is located.

Areas in need of special attention are determined by traps set up throughout the county. The traps are checked every morning, and any that contain high numbers of adult mosquitoes will result in the fog-trucks concentrating on that area.

From June to August, the traps are checked five days a week, and mosquitoes are tested for West Nile virus. If a mosquito tests positive, a fog truck is dispatched within two hours, and a three-mile radius around the trap is sprayed. If the area is unreachable by truck, an airplane is used for spraying attacks on the location. The last time a mosquito tested positive for West Nile by Moffat County Pest Management was in 2003, Sasges said. That area received emergency spraying by airplane.

Every year before July 4, pest management conducts an air assault on mosquitoes, covering 12,000 acres around Craig and Maybell with the help of pilot Blaine Tucker.

"The airplane spraying breaks the cycle of flying adults in mid-season." Sasges said. "Blaine is one of the best applicators around."

Airplane spraying covers the area from one mile south of the Yampa River, to a mile north of the Sandrocks. The spray contains an ultra-low volume of insecticide and is safe for humans.

In addition to mosquitoes, Moffat County Pest Management controls weeds, rodents, and crickets and grasshoppers. The workforce grows to 15 seasonal employees by mid-summer, mostly college students on break from school.

Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 207, or dolsen@craigdailypress.com

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