Staggered rice planting expected to extend mosquito season in the Delta

Jul 3, 2018

July is not just the month for Independence Day, Bar-B-Q, and fireworks.  It’s also the month of mosquito season in the Delta.

This year’s mosquito season, however, is expected to be a little unusual this year, according to Jim Stark of Vector Disease Control.  Vector has contracts with the cities of Jonesboro, Brookland, Paragould, Walnut Ridge, and Wynne to control the mosquito population.

Stark said that he expects the mosquito season to be longer than normal, thanks to a staggered rice growing season.

“The rice is staggered this year,” Stark said in a city of Jonesboro news release, “and some of it is just now coming up.  That’s going to add to the problem—probably way into October.”

Stark told KASU News that the mosquito season normally ends around October 15th, however, weather could also play a factor in the length of this year’s season.

“Now, I don’t know what the weather’s going to do,” Stark said.  “I don’t know if they’re going to be able to harvest it any quicker, or if they’re going to have to wait to harvest it.  It’s just a ‘wait-and-see’ game on that part, I guess.”

However, Stark said that the planting season will not affect the region’s largest hatching time.  He said that the insects normally have their largest hatch around Independence Day.

The mosquitoes coming from the rice fields are not the same type that carried 2016’s Zika virus or the recent rare case of the Keystone virus.  According to the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Extension and Research, the species of mosquitoes that are typically found in rice fields are the Anopheles quadrimaculatus and the Psorophora columbiae.

Stark said in the Jonesboro press release that Vector has plans to increase their mosquito control efforts this year.  In Jonesboro, he said truck sprayings will be increased to five or six days per week.  There will also be weekly airplane sprayings throughout the summer.

Although his company will be working to control the mosquito population, Stark said there are things people can do themselves to help reduce their chance of getting bit.  One thing he recommends for homeowners is to take a walk around their property and dump open containers of water.

“Dog bowls need to be dumped every 2-3 days and refilled,” Stark said.  “Bird baths are the same way.  Anything that holds water will more than likely produce mosquitos.  So, abandoned swimming pools—if your kids have a small pool outside, you need to dump that every 2-3 days.  Check your gutter.  If they’re clogged up, that’s an ideal place for homegrown mosquitos.”

He also recommends wearing light-colored clothing, limiting evening outdoor activities, and wearing insect repellent.  The U of A Division of Agriculture recommends repellent with DEET as the best option against mosquitos.