First spray is Wednesday night

    City of Crookston Public Works Director Pat Kelly is no stranger to getting pressure from various city councils and mayors to unleash an all-out spraying assault on the community’s mosquito population.

    But with pressure building from elected officials once again this week, Kelly, along with City Administrator Shannon Stassen, felt it necessary to remind everyone that the chemical the City sprays only works if there are mosquitoes around.

    “There have to be mosquitoes present for it to be effective, they have to be in the air, which is why we do it at night when they’re active, because it kills on contact,” Stassen said.

    There must be enough in the air at night, because the City announced Wednesday morning that the first spray of 2018 will take place Wednesday evening, beginning at 7 p.m.

Prevention, then spray

    Every spring, Public Works crews, working with Polk County Public Health, work together to eliminate prime habitat for laying mosquito eggs by identifying areas of standing water. Residents are also urged to eliminate any areas of standing water on their property. In common, larger areas of standing water or potential areas of standing water, larvicide briquettes are placed to kill before a hatch. Kelly said the briquettes are effective for 30 continuous days in water, and even longer if the standing water is intermittent. He added that more briquettes have been placed over the past few years, and he thinks it’s had a positive impact on local mosquito numbers.

    But, inevitably, mosquitoes will be around and wreak varying degrees of havoc. While Kelly has advised people in the past to realize that mosquitoes are a part of a summer life around these parts, the City does have a healthy Pest Control Budget balance, so local elected officials want some of that money spent on an annual mosquito assault.

    One or more big hatches in 2016 spurred then-mayor Gary Willhite to make a big push for more frequent spraying. As a result, the City sprayed twice per week from mid-July through mid-September. Last year, a “drought year,” Stassen explained, the City only sprayed for mosquito three times the whole summer.

    While last summer was relatively dry, Willhite says he thinks the lighter mosquito numbers might be partly due to the City’s aggressive spraying schedule well into September the year before. “It’s amazing how the eggs can survive over the winter,” he said. “I think maybe one of the reasons 2017 was better was that we were very aggressive in the fall of 2016 and maybe eliminated a lot of the egg-laying.”

    Willhite’s in favor of starting spraying now. “With all the water we have now, we’re going to need to be very aggressive,” he said. “Once you get behind on them, I don’t know if you ever catch up. Let’s get them early.”

Air spray?

    Kelly said the City has a standing contract with a firm that sprays for mosquitoes from the air, but that it’s been several years since the City ordered an air-spray. He estimates that it might cost around $15,000 for one air application covering the whole town, and added that he thinks that might be a bit steep for the result. “The thing about it is that it works great for a few days, but mosquitoes tend to blow in on the wind, and they kind of migrate back in on windy days,” Kelly explained. “I personally believe that for the cost involved, I don’t think you get the return on investment, so to speak.”

    If the mosquitoes “get so bad that they’re carrying us off,” Kelly added that he’d be open to an air spray in advance of a major community event like Ox Cart Days. If that happened, the City would do a ground spray in conjunction with the air spray. “You’d try to hit them all,” he said.