Elisa Shackelton: Wet spring brings mosquitoes

And an increased risk for West Nile Virus

A long, wet winter in Northwest Colorado has left standing water in low areas, providing excellent breeding areas for mosquitoes.

Breeding sites also include wading pools, bird baths, leaf-clogged gutters, standing water in yards or alleys, planters, buckets, poorly drained curbs leading to storm sewers, old tires or any other water containers.

Mosquitoes are a major insect pest problem in Colorado and may seriously deter outdoor activities and tourism.

These insects cause economic losses in cattle and other livestock through blood loss, disease transmission and irritation. Mosquitoes also can transmit certain human diseases such as West Nile virus, Western Equine Encephalitis.

Moffat County Pest Management crews already are out examining pools of standing water in Northwest Colorado, and homeowners should be doing the same, since hundreds of mosquitoes can breed in just a small amount of water. Homeowners are urged to empty, turn over or remove anything on their property that is holding water to minimize the available mosquito breeding sites in the area.

Irrigated agriculture is widespread in Colorado and irrigation systems also can be sources of mosquitoes. Farm impoundments, seepage from irrigation pipe, standing water in control structures, irrigated pastures and clogged ditches are all potential mosquito breeding areas. To control mosquitoes on irrigated farms:

• Control seepage.

• Schedule water delivery to avoid excess watering.

• Reduce or eliminate vegetation and debris in ditches and other water containment structures.

• Eliminate mosquito habitats in impoundments.

• Fill or drain water-holding areas, and fill or deepen shallow areas preferred by mosquito larvae.

Other ways to protect yourself from mosquitos

The most direct approach to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes is to use an insect repellent - and Americans have more options than ever. The Centers for Disease Control recommends three active ingredients in effective repellents: DEET (diethylmetatoluamide), picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus.

As temperatures rise, follow these safety measures to cut down on bites:

• Use insect repellent outside.

• Wear long sleeves, long pants, shoes and socks.

• Stay indoors, especially at dusk and dawn.

• Fix window and door screens.

• Get rid of breeding sites, such as all forms of standing water.

• Keep grass and weeds cut short.

• Use mosquito netting if you sleep outdoors.

• Don't depend on insect light electrocuters ("bug zappers") to control mosquitoes.

For more information, contact the Moffat County Weed and Pest Management Department or Elisa at the CSU Moffat County Extension Office, 539 Barclay, 824-9180.

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