STURGIS – While this year’s frequent snow storms and continuing early summer rainfall have been excellent for lawns, gardens, grain and hay crops, the above-average precipitation has also meant a bumper crop of pesky mosquitoes.
The bugs thrive in warm and wet conditions and their feeding habits, drawing blood and leaving a painful, itchy welt, can also spread serious diseases, including potentially deadly West Nile Virus.
The proliferation of bugs means some areas of the Northern Hills have had to step up their abatement programs. That includes Sturgis, where a noticeable increase in the pests since late May hastened the city to begin late evening fogging of insecticides along recreational bike paths, city parks, and in drainage areas in residential neighborhoods, according to city manager Daniel Ainslie.
“June was not a good month,” Ainslie said.
The evening fogging started the first part of July and coincided with usual summer treatment programs including the application of larvicide briquets in areas of standing water where mosquitos breed and hatch. The larvicide kills the bugs before they can reach adult stage.
Ainslie said the fogging operations are a change over previous years, when the weather was much more dry.
“This is the first year we’ve done that in a while,” Ainslie said.
Meanwhile, 25 miles to the north in Newell, the active war on mosquitos has been going since early May.
Larry Parker, public works foreman, said evening fogging and active treatment of standing water to kill larvae started on May 3 and will continue into the fall, “until temperatures fall below 60 degrees and stay there.”
Parker said there are plenty of wet places in and around Newell for mosquitos to breed and grow.
“We have about 10,000 times the mosquitoes that Belle Fourche has. They have a river. We have a canal every quarter mile. Lots of standing water,” he said.
Belle Fourche has indeed been treating for mosquitoes since Memorial Day, according to Ryan Stedillie, street, water and sewer foreman.
Spearfish Public Works administrator Cheryl Johnson said the city does not fog neighborhoods for mosquitos, but goes after larvae in standing water.
The South Dakota Dept. of Health lists guidelines (firstname.lastname@example.org) for residents to help control the mosquito population, including eliminating areas of standing water, especially getting rid of old tires where water collects.
Among other personal safety tips are wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, applying repellants containing DEET when outdoors, or avoiding the outdoors from dusk until midnight, when mosquitos are most active.
At least one municipality in the Northern Hills apparently doesn’t have a worry with mosquitoes. Lead public works administrator John Bunch said the mile-high city is not spraying for the bugs, as he has yet to see one of the winged pests so far this summer.
“All of our water goes to Deadwood,” he said. “We’re at the top of the mountain.”
Same thing with the Town of Whitewood. City Finance Office Cory Heckenlaible said the city usually applies for a grant to hire spraying for mosquitos, but had not applied for such a grant this year.
“I guess we’re not doing it,” Heckenlaible said. “I haven’t heard any complaints.”
So while the rainfall means green lawns and healthy gardens, there always is the downside in the form of swarms of mosquitos.
“With every good thing there’s always some bad,” Ainslie said. “What are you going to do?”