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Thursday, April 18, 2002

(Photo)
Billy Smith pours some liquid larvicide into a distributor being held by Richard Bramlett
(photo by David Jenkins)
Sikeston's mosquito campaign begins early

SIKESTON - Sikeston's campaign against the mosquitoes begins early this year.

"Due to the wet year we've been having as well as the increase in temperatures that are higher than normal, the city of Sikeston is now beginning its mosquito abatement program," said Tom Bridger, public works director.

One common misconception about mosquitoes is that a hard winter will keep their numbers down. "It may kill some bugs but what it won't get rid of are mosquito eggs," said Bridger. "We never know if we're fighting mosquitoes that were laid last year or three or four years ago."

Bridger said this year's mosquito control program is beginning about a month earlier than usual. Department of Public Works employees initiated the first strike in the battle Wednesday with its two larvicide products, one for standing water and one for running water. "We have different products we use in each situation," said Bridger.

The larvicide briquettes used to kill larvae in standing water slowly dissolve once placed in the water and normally last for 90-120 days, according to Bridger.

"In running water, we use a liquid larvicide," Bridger said. "It coats the sides of the banks and the grass or anything protruding from the water."

He explained mosquitoes lay their eggs along the bank where they remain until water and temperatures rise. "Mosquitoes eggs will lay dormant for years waiting for conditions right for them to hatch."

The liquid larvicide is good for about 10-14 days, "so we set that up on a two-week cycle," said Bridger. He explained the larvicide doesn't actually work on the eggs themselves. "The eggs may be there, but once they hatch it destroys the larvae."

Although less visible to the public than the mosquito spraying, use of the larvicide is a key component in controlling the pests. "We kill off far more mosquitoes with our larvicide program than we ever touch with our adulticide," said Bridger.

Bridger said there are several factors, including all the flat land, that make the yearly war with mosquitoes particularly difficult in the Sikeston area.

"We have some things around here that are really great for growing mosquitoes," said Bridger. He noted that mosquitoes which breed in rice fields like those west of us can travel with the wind for 30 or 40 miles. "We could kill every adult mosquito in town and may have a new crop back the next day."

As bad as it may be within Sikeston, Bridger said mosquitoes are even worse in the rural areas that don't have larvicide and spraying operations in place.

Bridger said Sikeston is "one of the most proactive and aggressive cities in the area" when it comes to fighting mosquitoes. "We do as much as some large communities."

City employees stay current on the latest techniques for controlling mosquitoes with annual training seminars. "I had all my employees go through a mosquito control workshop just a few weeks ago," said Bridger.

Residents can do their part in the war as well. Places like stopped up gutters, hollow tree trunks, trash cans, low spots around the yard that collect puddles and bird baths with water older than week are all great places for mosquitoes to place their eggs. "There's a lot of mosquitoes generated from the backyard areas," said Bridger. "It is important that people consider this and look around their yard."

"Keeping the grass short is also a big help," he added, as adult mosquitoes like to hide in tall grass.

Unless extremely warm weather hangs on longer than usual, the city's mosquito control program will probably run through September.