July 2, 2014 Edition

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Walnut Ridge prepares for
heavy mosquito season




Walnut Ridge Street Supt. Rick Ditto shows the recently purchased John Deere Gator the city will use to combat the heavy mosquito population. The smaller vehicle will be used to spray alleyways, Rails to Trails and Stewart Park, as well as other areas the full-sized sprayer can't access.
TD Photo ~ Megan Heyl

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

Walnut Ridge is preparing for a heavy mosquito season after weeks of substantial rains and winds.

Street Superintendent Rick Ditto said rising temperatures after a lot of rain is when you see high rates of spawning. He said that the wet season has left standing water around the city and strong winds also bring in mosquitoes.

Last year mosquito control was transferred to the street department, and employees will continue to use the model they developed.

Evening spraying will begin at 5:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday, when weather permits. Ditto said spraying earlier offers better results as the spray needs awhile to take effect. In the first 30-45 minutes of exposure, the spray can actually cause the mosquitoes to be more aggressive according to Ditto.

In addition to truck spraying, the city recently purchased a Gator utility vehicle to assist with spraying in alleyways, along Rails to Trails and in other tight areas the truck cannot reach.

Alleyways will be sprayed in the morning or afternoon as they serve as a refuge for mosquitoes during daylight hours.

The city is also working on arranging aerial spraying a couple of times a year when mosquitoes are at their highest population.

"We're trying to get it to where we can tolerate them," Ditto said. "That's our main goal. We can't kill every mosquito, but we can get as many as we can to keep them from being as big a nuisance as they really are."

Mayor Don House encourages all citizens to join the effort to combat mosquitoes on their personal property. Citizens should take care to keep lawns mowed and ditches cleared. Items around the house should be checked for standing water, and any tires, buckets, cans, grills or storage buildings should be checked frequently, kept dry and sealed tight when possible.

"We commend people for their personal efforts in their own yards," House said.

For issues regarding standing water, the city will provide briquette treatments. Ditto said that ditches that are failing to drain, ponds, unused pools and aquatic gardens are prime spots for mosquito breeding. The briquette treatment will last approximately 145 days and is not harmful to pets. Treatments can be done by the city or briquettes can be requested.

Ditto also stressed the importance of keeping animals safe during mosquito season, stating that dog houses are particularly bad for harboring mosquitoes.

Veterinarian Darren McVay with Gateway Animal Clinic said they see a tremendous amount of heartworm cases due to the prevalence of mosquitoes in the area. He recommended having pets screened for heartworms and put on regular prevention.

The best way to protect animals is to keep them inside, those who are unable to do that can use special pet spray to combat mosquitoes and put a fan on the animal's shelter to blow away mosquitoes.

Ditto said the fan trick can also be used on external doorways to keep the mosquito population down there. He also recommended that if people have to be out after dark they should wear light colored clothing, which attracts mosquitoes less than dark clothes do, and to use repellents to keep safe. He said he has had good results with ThermaCELL devices when repelling mosquitoes.

"You have to understand that if you are outside, you will get bit. We can't get them all. It's important to use precautions," House said.

The mayor said that Walnut Ridge conducts mosquito control for two reasons, to improve public health and to create a livable community for recreation and family life. Those who want to hold special events in the summer can request additional spraying be done in the vicinity of the event by contacting the mayor's office 24 hours in advance.

In addition, any areas that aren't receiving spraying that the city can get to should be reported to the mayor's office.

For more information, or to make a request for spraying, call the mayor's office at 886-6638

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