Mosquito Population Chews Away at Region 8 Livestock

July 7, 2004 -- Posted at 5:05 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO -- The maddening mosquito menace is in full swing in Region 8.  Mosquitoes are always bad in northeast Arkansas and southeast Missouri but this summer their numbers seem higher than usual.

A wetter than normal summer could be to blame for the higher population and while we go to great measures to protect ourselves from the annoying pests, animals can suffer as well.  The mosquitoes are worse this year than they have been in the past, and that can be deadly for some livestock
Dr. Tom Risch is an Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences at Arkansas State University.  He says folks in Region 8 are in for a long summer.
"I would predict that the mosquitoes would be bad for most of the summer," said Dr. Risch.
It's something no one wants to hear.
"We have the right weather conditions to cause a lot of pooling with water, so the mosquito larvae will develop in standing water. So it's not only the amount of rainfall, it's the fact that the water sticks around long enough for the mosquitoes to develop and fly away as adults," said Dr. Risch.
We know how to protect ourselves from those pesky critters, but what about those who can't really speak up for themselves?  Veterinarian Dr. Rodney Vaughn says livestock can be affected too.
"They're just a pest to those animals. They cause them to be kind of uneasy, where they're not out grazing all day like they should be. They're maybe not gaining weight or loosing weight. in extreme instances they could even cause enough blood lose for an animal to be anemic or possibly even die," said Dr. Vaughn.
Animals kept in barns or indoors just need a little breeze.
"If they've got a place to get in the shade, maybe with a light fan blowing on them. They'll actually stand in front of that fan for a good while and that will keep the mosquitoes and the flies blown off of them," recommended Dr. Vaughn.
The mosquitoes can also be a threat, possibly carrying the West Nile virus. Keeping livestock in the field safe can be tough.
"You can do things like provide adequate drainage where waters not standing in the pasture all the time, that will help eliminate some of the reproduction spots or places where they hatch their eggs," said Dr. Vaughn.
So far there haven’t been any confirmed cases of West Nile Virus in horses in Craighead County, but the vets at Hilltop Veterinarian hospital don't take any chances with the animals they house.

"Their are some sprays that you can apply to these animals. Some of them are pretty good, but generally speaking they don't last for a very long time as far as repelling the mosquitoes," said Dr. Vaughn, "It's almost a loosing battle."

Experts predict that the mosquitoes won't really get any better until the next freeze, which may not be for a while.