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Little flies abound

GAYS MILLS - Today’s topic is near to all of us, and, I hope, dear to none of us: mosquitoes. That is unless you happen to be a tropical disease researcher or possibly a mosquito repellant salesman. They are probably reveling in the brief tropical season we enjoy in the upper Midwest, for different reasons than your typical campers and picnic goers. 

We all speak a little Spanish when we refer to the little devils known as mosquitoes. The word mosquito comes from the Spanish word for fly, “mosca“, and is given the diminutive “ito” to refer to its size, hence the meaning “little flies.” Well, they may be little but they sure cause big problems here and in most of the world. The mosquitoes are in a scientific family called Culicidae, which contains thousands of species and, collectively, is the most deadly animal family on Earth. Think about that for a minute.

Last summer, the news was all abuzz about the Zika virus. Zika is spread, as you no doubt know, by mosquitoes. Although we don’t need to worry too much about Zika here, there have been a few cases reported in Wisconsin, contracted by people while on travels to southern climes. Yes, we’ve been stealthily invaded. Let’s hope that our Wisconsin winter will deter a serious outbreak of Zika and that global climate change doesn’t tilt the odds too far in favor of mosquitoes.   

We complain (or brag) about our tough winters here, but they are a blessing in disguise as they prevent mosquitoes from wreaking havoc year round. In the tropics (that we all daydream about and yearn for in February), the mosquitoes and other pests just go on and on. Sad fact: mosquitoes kill over a million people a year worldwide, many of those deaths are due to malaria. Currently, the malaria epidemic in Africa is out of control. Some say an African child dies from malaria every 30 seconds.

Recently, the Village of Gays Mills discussed cranking up the old village sprayer to thwart the 2017 crop of mosquitoes.   And that was before the last flood so the need is more urgent now. The village elders were checking into whether the sprayer worked (it hasn’t been used for several years) and what kind of materials were available to use as spray.

Here are a couple of creative ideas I’ve heard of to combat mosquitoes.

1.  Mosquito fish. Mosquito fish are small guppy- or minnow-like fish that eat mosquito larva. They are for sale on e-Bay and are used in Koi ponds, aquariums, and private fishing ponds. They will also feed on native fish and amphibian eggs and larva so they are controversial. But maybe used occasionally, they could stymie problem mosquito areas. I don’t think they would survive a northern winter.

2. Spreading oil on standing water, temporary water-logged areas that are just right for mosquitoes.  This treatment will suffocate young mosquitoes. The oil would obviously be something besides motor oil, something like corn oil that would not harm the environment .

In the meantime, I’ve invested in a bug hood, a Coghlan’s Mosquito Head Net. Coghlan’s is located in Winnipeg, Canada, where they probably know all about mosquitoes. It’s like a beekeeper’s hood only lighter in weight. It fits over a hat and ties around the torso for a tight fit. I only wish everyone in Africa had one of these pieces of mosquito armor.