Vector control district tackles mosquito challenge

By Pat Caldwell

The Enterprise

VALE – Gary Page cast a wary eye to the sky one day last week.

As a thunderstorm built up on the horizon, Page realized his district’s regular mosquito spraying operation was going to be delayed.

That was good news for the tiny pests that inhabit the county but bad news for Page, the county Vector Control District manager.

That’s because Page knows that this year Culex mosquitoes already have a head start on their human hosts.

Culex is a genus of mosquitoes that is common locally.

“The mosquito numbers can build up fairly quickly. We were pretty low until last week,” said Page.

Adding to the urgency this year was the news last week that mosquitoes infected with West Nile virus were found in Idaho’s Payette County.

Page said so far no mosquitoes trapped in Malheur County tested positive for West Nile.

“We typically don’t see West Nile until after the Fourth of July,” said Page.

For now, he said, the vector control district will conduct spraying operations four days a week throughout the county.

The little critters are beginning to multiply as the weather warms up and irrigation season is in full swing.

Page said mosquitoes are not picky about where they breed but are especially devoted to water.

“It could be anywhere but mainly it is irrigation that causes a lot of mosquitoes. Rain events can be troublesome too. Just a downpour will create a lot of little puddles that may linger for weeks if they are in a shady spot,” said Page.

The abundance of water sources in the county makes Page’s job difficult.

“Trying to find all of the breeding habitat is our biggest challenge because it is not static year to year,” said Page.

Page said irrigation patterns change every growing season in the county.

“So we get standing water in places where we may not have had it before while places we treated before are dry. It is a constant battle to keep up with those changes,” said Page.

Mosquitoes also like to breed inside old tires and other discarded materials, Page said.

“There are a lot of tire piles out there and those produce lots of mosquitoes so we are always on the lookout for those and we try to get folks to go get them recycled,” said Page.

The vector control district confronts the mosquito threat mainly by spraying.

Page said a contractor hired by the county sprays most of Ontario and Nyssa while district employees typically spray Harper, Little Valley, Juntura, Vale and portions of Ontario.

The Permethrin spray is applied in a fog by an air generator in the back of a vector control vehicle.

Vector control district employees tour local cities once a month and apply insecticide pellets into storm drains while also looking for standing water. District employees also conduct foot patrols and use backpack sprayers in the Vale area to kill mosquito larvae.

The common theme for mosquito season is heat.

“Once the warm weather hits it really rolls out the mosquitoes,” said vector control operations manager Jessica Norton.

Have a news tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected] or 541-473-3377