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June 30, 2014 05:19 PM

Curbing Mosquito Populations

Miller, SD

Cities across the state are battling the bugs as the Fourth of July approaches and people will be spending a lot of time outdoors. Many of those are small towns in rural areas.

With water surrounding the small town of Miller, there are plenty of places for mosquitoes to thrive and multiply. Ron Hoftiezer knows that all too well. He says a member of his wife's family died after suffering from the West Nile virus.

"A little bug could take a man's life; it's a bad deal. It's pretty tough on everybody," Hoftiezer said.

Hoftiezer sprays for mosquitoes in Miller, neighboring St. Lawrence and a nearby recreation area.

Those Hand County locations aren’t far from Hughes County where state officials have confirmed South Dakota’s first human West Nile case of the year. With confirmed West Nile in the region, Hoftiezer says spraying efforts intensify.

"Yes definitely, we do treat water holes with larvicide but there's so many out there that you don't know about," Hoftiezer said.

It also costs money, something that can be hard to come by in rural communities. The State has awarded $500,000 in grants to help fight mosquitoes and West Nile. Those funds are being split between nearly 100 towns, tribes and counties.

According to a press release from the state, grant amounts varied based on population and an areas history of human West Nile cases. Close to $25,000 is going to historically hard hit Brown County. Crews in the northeast South Dakota county spray small towns that don't have their own mosquito control programs but still have plenty of bugs.

"Early on we had quite a few and I think the numbers are probably a little better now. With a lot of water, we'll have to continue to monitor that and keep ahead of them," Mike Rohrbach said.

The county is also planning to buy more equipment that will allow for more spraying in targeted areas when there are events in its small towns.

Aberdeen is receiving $30,000. It has a large mosquito spraying program that's already been in full operation for weeks. Mosquito trap count numbers in Aberdeen are OK so far this year, at least compared with some past years.

Looking at the kind of mosquitos that can carry the West Nile virus, recent counts have shown about five per trap. The city wants that number below ten. It also hasn't tested a mosquito pool positive for the virus this year.

Officials in Miller say the community tries to set aside money to help fight mosquitoes and keep people safe, and the $5,101 it's getting from the State will help a lot.

"I know a lot of communities really need the extra help because chemicals are not cheap," Hoftiezer said.

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