Mosquitoes, ticks in higher numbers this summer
BEMIDJI — The late arrival of spring, an increase in moisture and steady warming trends has Elizabeth Schiffman, a Minnesota Department of Health epidemiologist, worried about the impending rise in mosquito and tick populations around Minnesota.
"We have already been seeing a lot of pest mosquitoes this year," Schiffman said. "It’s really hard to predict mosquito patterns."
In 2012, the MDH recorded one case of human West Nile Virus in Beltrami County, contributing to the 70 cases documented across the state.
But according to Schiffman, a rise in the tick population is a greater concern for northern Minnesota.
"A majority of mosquitoes in Minnesota are not disease carrying — most of them are just pests," she said, noting there are nearly 50 types of mosquitoes in the state. "In the wooded areas of Bemidji, tick-borne diseases are going to be a much great concern."
Lyme disease, the most common contracted tick-borne disease, affected more than 900 Minnesotans in 2012, according to an MDH study.
Schiffman, who specializes in vector diseases, said the wet, humid weather patterns the Bemidji region has been experiencing in 2013 are the ideal thriving conditions for both mosquitoes and ticks.
Normal to slightly above precipitation patterns have been recorded in 2013 for this area, according to the National Weather Service.
Schiffman said the best way to avoid contracting any kind of disease from the insects and parasites is to apply generous amounts of mosquito repellent and to wear long sleeved shirts and light-colored clothing.
"It’s best to try to avoid times of the day when they (mosquitoes) are active, particularly during the early morning and evening times," she said.
Schiffman recommended using mosquito repellents containing at least 30 percent DEET to avoid attracting ticks, but said keeping away from wooded areas is the best way to avoid contact with the parasites.
With the arrival of summer, residents are trading their winter coats and boots for shorts and T-shirts, spending more time outdoors and local environmental services agencies are urging the public to take initiative and eliminate breeding grounds for ticks and mosquitoes.
Officials from the Beltrami County Environmental Services said keeping grassy areas cut short and reducing areas of standing water are just a few ways to limit an area’s exposure to the summertime pests.
Another way to reduce tick and mosquito populations is by spraying approved pesticides by ground or air, a control plan that many area cities and counties practice.
The city of Bemidji and Beltrami County do not have formal control programs in place.
According to John Chattin, city manager for Bemidji, the city has never sprayed for mosquitoes.
"Any decision to start a mosquito spraying program would need to be initiated by the council," Chattin said. "It’s never been on the council’s agenda, but if the council were to get enough feedback from the public, it could be considered."
Chattin said in the past six years, he can only recall receiving one inquiry about the possibility of a mosquito pesticide spray in the city. Similarly, a countywide mosquito spray would need to be initiated by the Board of Commissioners.
According to Joe Vene, District 2 county commissioner, a mosquito control plan has never come to the attention to the board.
Cass County has approached the mosquito control plan differently, taking a direct approach.
The Cass County Vector Control Department has placed about three dozen mosquito traps around the county to record mosquito numbers, 20 of which are within Fargo and West Fargo city limits, according Forum News Service. Because only female mosquitoes bite, when a threshold of 35 females has been collected on average, a county-wide pesticide mist can be considered, which kills 80 to 90 percent of adult mosquitoes.
Cass County is joined by other city governments and county governing bodies in the area that combat the summertime pests with a control plan.
Weather permitting, East Grand Forks in Polk County will be conducting a citywide mosquito repellent spray tonight.