Water - too much of it in too many places we wish it wasn't - is the problem right now.

Guess what comes next?


Like the water, there could be more than we're accustomed to, for longer than we're used to it.

"In a normal year, the first week of June is usually when we hit our high-water point and back-pools fill," says Missoula County extension agent Jerry Marks. "They need still water and warmer temperatures to lay their eggs, and it's 10 to 14 days after that we see our first hoard of mosquitoes."

The cool, wet weather this year has delayed that.

But once it comes, there could be another flood, this one of the pesky insect.

"We're going to have more pools of water scattered everywhere, and I think we'll see a higher number" of mosquitoes, Marks says. "My guess is they'll last longer this year."

Once floodwaters begin to recede and stagnant pools are left behind, breeding mosquitoes will have many more prime places to lay their eggs.

Most, state health officials said this week, will just be a nuisance.

But some can carry viruses, the most common being the West Nile virus.

"It's hard at this time to predict if West Nile or other mosquito-borne virus infections will be higher than average in Montana this year," says Anna Whiting Sorrell, director of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. "The best advice for all Montanans is to focus on avoiding mosquito bites as soon as mosquitoes emerge."


Her department encourages people to:

Use insect repellent containing an EPA-registered active ingredient including DEET, Picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus.

Avoid outdoor activities at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active, or wear long sleeves and pants - plus the insect repellent - at those times.

Get rid of mosquito breeding sites on your property (see box).

If standing water cannot be removed, mosquito-killing products labeled for elimination of mosquito larvae can be added.

Western Montana sees far fewer cases of West Nile virus than other parts of the state, Marks says, because we have smaller numbers of the mosquito species that carry it.

Most people infected with West Nile virus experience no symptoms, or develop a mild illness, according to Jennifer Lowell, an epidemiologist with the state.

But in rare cases people can develop symptoms of encephalitis or meningitis.

Those who get a mild illness may experience headaches, muscle aches and low-grade fever, and generally, no treatment is needed.

According to the state, the species of mosquitoes most likely to carry the West Nile virus usually appear later in the summer under drier conditions. Most human cases of the infection don't happen in Montana until late July.


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