Clark County’s mosquito hunters are gearing up for a resurgence of the blood-sucking pests this summer.
Last summer was relatively mild for mosquito problems in southwest Washington, which is fertile breeding ground for the water-born insects because of the Columbia, Lewis and Washougal rivers and surrounding wetlands.
Heavy rains and flooding flushed out mosquito egg beds or buried them under mud last year. The Clark County Mosquito Control District logged only 67 complaints from the public, compared with 253 in 1993 and 534 in 1986.
The district already has received 30 complaints this year, mostly from the Camas-Washougal area.
“Quite honestly, we can’t give you a prediction” of how bad it will be this year, said Tom Eli, the Southwest Washington Health District official who supervises the mosquito-control program. “Last year we were thinking we’d have a landslide and we got nothing. It really depends on the temperature. If it stays unusually warm, we get a lot of problems.”
Mosquitos are a historic problem here. Famed 19th century explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark complained about the pests when they reached the region, Eli said.
Steve Kessler, supervisor of Clark County’s mosquito-control squad, and his eight-member crew use insecticides to kill millions of mosquitoes at hundreds of sites, ranging from Vancouver Lake to sewage treatment plants and retention ponds in new housing developments.
The retention ponds, designed to filter runoff from roofs and driveways, have created more than 400 new mosquito hot spots. The ponds make attractive homes to female mosquitoes looking to lay eggs.
Only about 5 percent of the squad’s work deals with spraying adult mosquitoes.
“The idea is to get them in the water, before they emerge as an adult,” Kessler said.
But no matter how many mosquitos his crew obliterates, he knows the battle won’t go away.
“You just have to keep them controllable,” Kessler said.