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Voracious, Vampiric Mosquito Invasion

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You tell me… is that headline an exaggeration? In a community where everyone walking the streets looks like they're in the midst of a measles attack, conversations are inevitably making their way  around to comments like: "Man, can you believe the mosquitoes this year?," while they absently scratch their arms, their legs, their heads and, god forbid, the most awful place you can get a mosquito bite - their knuckles.

Well, yes, I can believe 'em. It's hard not to while they annoyingly whine in the air around your head. But are they worse this year than normal?

Nobody really knows, because so far, no intrepid enthusiasts have organized mosquito counts… at least not in this area. But John Halpop, extension agent in Sanders County, says he's been getting lots of calls about these pesky critters. And he offers the following words on the subject.

"Montana lays claim to 45 species of mosquito. They all pass through four distinct life stages: egg (innocuous); larva (wiggler); pupa (tumbler) and adult (annoying). Depending on the species, eggs are laid on soil, vegetation, in tree holes or along the edges of still water."

Obviously, for those "annoyed" just about out of their minds, destruction of breeding ground is the first priority in ridding themselves of future mosquito problems. Note, that means no soil, no vegetation, no trees and no still water. You could try living in the middle of a rushing creek, but I suspect it would have to be a mighty big one or the mini-vampires will just fly right over from the soil, trees and vegetation left by those not willing to go to great lengths to end the mosquito scourge.

Halpop goes on to offer that mosquitos, "are good flyers ad can move several miles. Females… require a blood meal to produce viable meals." Here's tip two, of course… get rid of all your blood, and quickly. No meal, no eggs. This will probably be easier to accomplish than you might think as, two weeks into mosquito season, most of us don't have much blood left anyway.

Halpop offers some less drastic measures to deal with the threat, including, …"keeping porch lights off as much as possible in the evening. Or, replace traditional white light bulbs with yellow ones to help reduce the attractiveness of your home to mosquitoes and other night-flying insects. But, because female mosquitoes are attracted to the carbon dioxide that we exhale, using an insect repellent while outdoors can be the most important method to prevent mosquito bites." You'll note he doesn't recommend that we quit exhaling, though it's likely that choice might prove effective.

Halpop also suggests the use of DEET (a powerful insecticide) but no matter how much you're tempted, don't try drinking it. It is, after all, poison. If you don't like the idea of putting poison on your skin or clothes, he suggests Avon's Skin So Soft lotion, which contains citronella oil.

Citronella candles might also help, though the ones at my house seem to do nothing more than create a romantic setting for the local females to obtain their blood meal.

At the Bonner County Extension office, agents point out that two very effective "mosquito repellents" are swallows and bats. Bats, in fact, are called the most effective insect control known to man. Individual, mouse-eared bats can catch up to 600 mosquitoes in an hour. If that sounds attractive to you, stop in at your local extension office and find out how you can induce these bug zappers to make your home their own.

And folks, next time we have a mild winter, remember not to rejoice too much. After all, every silver lining has a big, dark cloud behind it and, in the case of warm winters, that cloud is composed of mosquitoes.

-Trish Gannon

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Landon Otis

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outdoors, mosquitos, insects

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