By Richard C. Snell
Barton County Extension Agent, Agriculture
Since I am a warm weather person, I am always ready for spring, at least in my mind. Except, it caught me off guard this year and I don't even have all my winter work done yet. It seems like everything is a little bit early this year. I don't know if it was due to the mild winter or just that the ground temperature went up quickly. Anyway, alfalfa is being cut early, we had weevils in the alfalfa early.
The trees leafed early and then some got nipped by the frost. Garden plants such as potatoes and sweet corn got frozen back but a new shoot will come up.
Now for the bad news of spring. It warmed up so quick and we had a couple of nice rains and so guess what? The dad-burned mosquitoes are back at it again. That means it's time to control them and try to prevent West Nile Virus.
This is going to be the short version because I don't want to take time to go through all the details of the disease. Most of you know that we had the dead bird surveillance program last year and probably will again this year. There are like at least 110 species of birds that have gotten the disease but we usually focus on the blue jays and crows. Wonder why there are no baseball teams with the name "Crows"? Probably the closest we have are the Raptors in basketball.
Most horse owners are vaccinating for West Nile and need to keep working with their veterinarian on this program. Most infected mammals show few syptoms or ill effects. There are about 20 different animal species that have tested positive for the disease world-wide. Mammals are dead-end host in that they can't spread the infection to other animals even if bitten by mosquitoes.
So there is really not a good reason in my opinion to vaccinate dogs, and cats since you will probably never know it, even if they get it and there would be no reason to destroy an animal since they likely will recover quickly. Horses are a different story, in that 40 percent of them die from the disease. Humans are far less than one percent to have a serious form of the disease. None the less, since human life is much more valuable, we do need to protect ourselves form the mosquitoes which vector the virus.
The best thing to do is to apply repellents with DEET in them. This includes many brands. Especially if you go out in the early mornings and evenings in areas where you are likely to encounter mosquitoes. Long sleeved shirts and long pants will also help protect you from bites.
Next, we need to try controlling mosquitoes where they breed. It is much more effective to control standing water and vegetation than spraying the air, especially unless the whole community is doing it.
Get rid of, or empty out at least twice per week, anything outdoor water gets trapped. This includes tires, tree stumps, tarps on boats and swimming pools, depressions in rocks and concrete, and bowls for pets and bird baths. If you haven't cleaned out your leaf- clogged rain-gutters (like me), do so soon.
Old tires may be the worst and some states have laws that a hole has to be drilled on each side if kept outside or store them under roof.
Beyond that mosquitoes can breed in livestock tanks and troughs. Livestock waste lagoons or any stagnant pool or pond can also be a breeding ground for mosquito larvae. Make an effort to drain mud puddles whenever possible.
West Nile is still not a high risk for most people. However if you have immunity problems, are anemic or are getting elderly, you are at risk.