New vector official faces a lot of buzzJudy Huisenga is learning the task of controlling mosquitoes on the job. The city’s new vector-control director, who took over April 1, also faces a year with a lot of standing water and a potential for high mosquito numbers.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
Judy Huisenga is learning the task of controlling mosquitoes on the job.
The city’s new vector-control director, who took over April 1, also faces a year with a lot of standing water and a potential for high mosquito numbers.
“There’s so much standing water,” she said. “All this rain is making it tough.”
The job’s challenges are what drew her to the position.
“I just love working outside,” she said. “I had worked road construction but then got married and had kids.”
Her new job has included a crash course on mosquito behavior and identification.
“I didn’t even know only the female mosquitoes bite,” she said. “I understand a lot more now.”
She’s been spreading larvicide briquettes in standing water in Jamestown and rural areas within one mile of city limits.
Larvicides kill the mosquito larvae before it matures into the flying and biting mosquito that is the common summertime pest.
“The larvicide kills the mosquito when it’s still in the water stage,” said Michelle Feist, epidemiology and surveillance program director for the North Dakota Health Department. “Most programs spray when the mosquitoes are out in large numbers flying too but with larvicide it is easier to target areas where they hatch. The methods go hand in hand.”
Huisenga uses larvicides with a 150-day effective life in areas where the standing water is expected to remain through the summer.
Shorter-lifespan larvicides are used in areas where the water may dry in a few days or weeks.
Mosquitoes are present but in low numbers, so far.
“When it gets really hot the hatch will increase,” she said.
Mosquito trap counts so far this year have averaged about 30 per day.
“The trigger to spray is 127 female mosquitoes per trap,” she said. “That will probably come with warmer weather.”
The mosquito count has also indicated a low number of the culex mosquito that sometimes carries the West Nile virus.
“There have been no cases in North Dakota yet this year,” Feist said. “But the bulk of the cases come in late July and August as weather warms up.”
Feist said the culex mosquito numbers increase with warmer weather along with a greater reproduction rate of the virus. In 2010 a total of nine human cases of West Nile virus were confirmed in North Dakota. This is down from the peak year of 2007 when 369 cases were confirmed.
Along with the larvicide and spraying programs Huisenga said the public has a responsibility in mosquito control.
“We’ve found a lot of tires and cans and things in the back alleys,” she said. “Those are all places that can hold water and where mosquitoes can breed.”
Huisenga said anything that holds water is a potential mosquito breeding location. Homeowners should dump wading pools and bird baths at least once per week.
“Keep tall grass cut short,” she said. “The adult mosquitoes stay in the grass to get out of the wind during the day.”
The Vector Control department has an annual budget of about $75,000 and is funded by a $1 per month per residence assessment added to city water bills. Along with Huisenga, Gerrard Volk and Dennis Mansavage work in the department. Volk worked for the department last summer while Mansavage has nine years experience. All are seasonal employees of the city.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at (701) 952-8452 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org