Mosquitoes are biting Tri-Citians early. Why you should be worried

Preventing mosquito related diseases

Angela Beehler of the Benton County Mosquito Control District offers tips on preventing mosquito related diseases.
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Angela Beehler of the Benton County Mosquito Control District offers tips on preventing mosquito related diseases.

The unusually hot start to June in the Tri-Cities has brought an early arrival of disease-carrying mosquitoes.

You may have seen mosquitoes, and been bitten, through the spring.

But the kinds that are hatching now — the Culex pipiens and Culex tarsalis — are the ones that get the attention of mosquito control officials.

They can carry the West Nile virus, which can cause a serious and potentially fatal illness.

The hot weather during the first half of June, including some record-breaking heat, has warmed up the water where mosquitoes grow.

That’s allowing more generations of mosquitoes to develop in less time, said Kevin Shoemaker, assistant manager of Benton County Mosquito Control.

Workers there are seeing mosquitoes in numbers that are unusual for this early in the year, he said.

No West Nile virus yet

Fortunately, none have tested positive yet for the West Nile virus.

The Washington state Department of Health also has no reports of West Nile in the state so far.

West Nile Virus can be deadly — but only one in five people who are infected by a mosquito bite will develop any symptoms, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. Here's what to look for.

Mosquito trapping started in early May in Benton County, with the current focus on areas where the Culex mosquitoes are most likely hanging out.

The variety that hatches earliest, Aedes vexans, is one that tends to live in spring floodwater. While “super annoying,” they don’t carry West Nile, Shoemaker said.

The Culex mosquitoes tend to develop in areas where water is always available.

Benton County Mosquito Control has been treating large areas of standing water with a granular larvicide dropped from an airplane. It most commonly uses corn cob granules containing a microbe that sickens mosquito larvae.

Mosquito fogging schedules

It also has been fogging adult mosquitoes using a truck, but has not scheduled spraying for adult mosquitoes from the air. That will start only if there is a high number of mosquitoes and evidence of West Nile virus.

The fogging calendar, which shows where spraying is planned for Benton County Mosquito Control, from Finley to part of Yakima County, is posted at mosquitocontrol.org/fogging.

Franklin County Mosquito Control posts its planned fogging routes at fcmcd.org under “news and events.”

Tri-City-area residents can take steps to prevent mosquitoes from breeding on their property.

Mosquito Control granules
An employee of the Benton County Mosquito Control District holds bacteria- laced granules that are deadly to mosquito larvae. Bob Brawdy

Bird baths or other standing water should be changed at least once a week.

For water that is more difficult to change, such as in water troughs for farm animals or decorative ponds, mosquito fish can control populations.

Both Benton County Mosquito Control and Franklin County Mosquito Control will deliver the mosquito fish after an online form is submitted.

Preventing mosquito bites

With the early start of the season for mosquitoes that can transmit the West Nile virus, it is time to start avoiding mosquitoes.

The Washington Department of Health recommends wearing a long-sleeve shirt, long pants and hat in mosquito-infested areas.

Mosquitoes are most active from dusk to dawn, so stay indoors during that time or be prepared with a mosquito repellent.

The Centers for Disease Control says repellent should not be used on babies younger than 2 months old and that certain repellents — oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol — should not be used on children under 3 years old.

The Environmental Protection Agency has more information on choosing an inspect repellent at epa.gov/insect-repellents.

Many people who are infected with the West Nile virus from a mosquito bite will not get sick. About one in five will have mild symptoms like a fever and body aches.

But for about one person in 150, severe symptoms will happen, which can include a high fever, disorientation, muscle weakness, paralysis and coma.

Senior staff writer Annette Cary covers Hanford, energy, the environment, science and health for the Tri-City Herald. She’s been a news reporter for more than 30 years in the Pacific Northwest.