Skeeter scourge leads to fogging

This map shows areas the Baker Valley Vector Control District hopes to spray from the air tonight with a product that kills adult mosquitoes.

An infestation of mosquitoes prompted the Baker Valley Vector Control District to bring in what amounts to its heavy artillery Thursday night in the northwestern part of Baker City.

The District’s fogging truck rolled through the area where traps had recently nabbed an increasing number of the bloodsucking insects, said Matt Hutchinson, the District’s manager.

“We had a few higher trap counts in the West Campbell Loop and 17th Street areas,” Hutchinson said this morning.

He attributes the burgeoning bug numbers to a couple of factors.

First, widespread flood irrigation in parts of Baker Valley, including the area between Pocahontas Road and Wingville Road, has led to standing water where mosquitoes lay their eggs.

Hutchinson said summer breezes, which typically blow from the northwest, can propel mosquitoes from the valley into town.

The second issue is a homegrown one.

The heavy rain that fell on Aug. 10 likely filled flower pots, old tires and other receptacles that can also harbor mosquitoes.

“Mosquito numbers have been pretty strong this year,” Hutchinson said. “We’ve been pretty busy.”

He said the flood-irrigated section of the valley between Pocahontas and Wingville has been a particularly pesky problem for his crew.

The District’s top priority is to kill larvae before they hatch into adults. Known as “larvicides,” these can be applied from the ground and from aircraft.

But when mosquito numbers reach certain levels, Hutchinson can have an airplane spray a different pesticide that kills adult mosquitoes.

A flight is scheduled for tonight, winds permitting, in the area between Pocahontas and Wingville, he said. The spraying will all be outside the Baker City limits.

Spray schedules, including maps, are posted on the District’s website, bvvcd.org.

Residents can also report mosquito problems, or add their property to a no-spraying list, at the website.

You can also call the District at 541-523-1151.

On Thursday night the fogging truck focused on the area west of the railroad tracks, north of Broadway Street. The truck or ATVs also fogged the Baker Sports Complex and North Baker School, as well as along Hughes Lane and Pocahontas Road from 10th Street west to 17th Street.

Hutchinson said fogging is possible early next week in parts of South Baker City.

In addition to notices on the website, District workers are posting signs in neighborhoods where fogging is planned.

That’s a new tactic this year.

“I like to be able to get the word out there,” Hutchinson said.

Most of the mosquitoes trapped in the northwestern section of town recently were floodwater varieties, which typically breed in the valley, he said.

By contrast, the predominant mosquito trapped elsewhere in town recently are permanent water species, which breed in ponds and storm drains.

(The District uses larvicide to control mosquitoes in storm drains.)

The permanent water breeds can carry West Nile virus, Hutchinson said. So far this year only one group of trapped mosquitoes has tested positive for the virus. That was in early July in Keating Valley.

No human cases of West Nile have been reported this year.

Editor

Jayson has worked at the Baker City Herald since November 1992, starting as a reporter. He has been editor since December 2007. He graduated from the University of Oregon Journalism School in 1992 with a bachelor's degree in news-editorial journalism.

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