Rise in Mosquito Population Raises Concerns - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Rise in Mosquito Population Raises Concerns

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WEST RICHLAND, Wash-- The mosquito population has hit a ten year high, and that has some researchers worried about the health and safety of people.

On any average summer day, the Benton County Mosquito District is hard at work cutting through high grass fields and marching through damp soil.  Their goal is not to eradicate the marsh of the pesky insect, but to control their population.

"The mosquito population, especially with certain species are the highest we've had recorded in the last 10 years," says Kevin Shoemaker, assistant manager of the Benton County Mosquito Control District.

A mosquito can grow from larvae to adult in as little as a week.  For Shoemaker and his team of researchers, that means added pressure to find the insects at a young age.  If they don't find them at a young age, the potential to spread disease increases.

"We're looking in these bodies of water for the presence of larvae," says Shoemaker as he wades through a West Richland marsh.  "If we find them we treat the water to kill them at the sight so they don't become adults."

There are 21 known species of mosquitoes in our area.  There are 29 in the Yakima Valley.  But researchers are only concerned with a few, known as vectors.  These are the insects that get diseases like West Nile from a bird and pass it on, sometimes even to humans.  Logic suggest the great number of mosquitoes, the higher the chance of spreading the virus.  

And that is why it is so important to take pre-cautionary measures.

"Look at all the places around the home that have standing water," says Susan Shelton of the Benton Franklin Health District. 

Mosquitoes are attracted to water that remains untouched for days.  That is why things like dog dishes and tarps need to be changed.

Both researchers also suggest limiting the exposure to mosquitoes by staying inside at all possible times.  If you have to go outside, researchers say to use insect repellent that has deet.