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City analysis finds mosquito population under control

DICKINSON - Part of living in North Dakota during the summer is the familiar tingle of a mosquito bite, followed by that itching sensation, often times impossible to ignore.

Dickinson residents may believe this year's batch of mosquitoes is one of the worst in years, but a joint city and state study has found the mosquito population is under control.

"It doesn't look that they aren't out of line based on our counts," Dickinson Public Works Manager Skip Rapp said.

As part of a study to address the potential movement of West Nile Virus into the area's mosquito population the city installed traps around town to measure the amount of mosquitoes and run disease tests on them.

The traps, placed in St. Wenceslas-St. Patrick's cemetery, St. Joseph's cemetery, the Gress Softball Complex, the Dickinson Experiment Station and a lift station on 26th Street and Fourth Avenue East are checked daily and a count done at the end of the week helps gauge the current population.

Two types of traps are used to catch the mosquitoes. Two are carbon dioxide traps and three are light traps, both carbon dioxide and light attract mosquitoes.

"If you get 100 mosquitoes, per 24 hours, in your traps," Rapp said. "That's when you start looking that your population is up high enough where it's creating a nuisance and things out in the public."

Currently, the highest weekly count found in the traps has been 1,200 mosquitoes, or about 34 per trap, per day, far below the 100 necessary.

Rapp said the target number for a problem population is 3,500 in the period of a week, so Dickinson's 1,200 is nothing to worry about.

In comparison, the Williston traps capture around 18,000 mosquitoes in a weekly period according to Rapp.

To manage its mosquito population, Dickinson utilizes a larva-cide program which kills mosquitoes in their infant stage.

Rapp said if people are experiencing high mosquito counts where they live it's most likely due to nearby factors.

"It's probably more of a localized problem," Rapp said.

Because mosquitoes reproduce on standing, stagnant water, the city spreads the larva-cide chemical in large areas of standing water, like creeks and ponds around town to help keep the population down.

But that won't catch them all Rapp said. Residents can help by changing the water in their bird baths and water dishes and not keep rain water sitting in buckets. Mosquitoes will find them, Rapp said.

Their eggs can lie dormant for over 20 years and they can travel up to 15 miles looking for an area to inhabit so it only takes some sitting water or a rainstorm to have mosquitoes in your area.

Even though the population is at a manageable level right now, Rapp said people shouldn't expect the city to wipe the insect out completely.

"You will never ever eliminate 100 percent of the mosquito population," Rapp said. "...Nothing has indicated with our traps and stuff that we have too many mosquitoes."