It may be nearly a month into fall, but Amarillo area pest experts say there’s too much water on the ground and not enough chill in the air to stop the buzz of mosquitoes.
City of Amarillo vector control crews have stepped up the efforts they began in April to spray and fog for mosquitoes because recent rainfall around Amarillo — along with generally above-average temperatures — has created an atmosphere for the bloodsuckers to thrive.
The city of Amarillo issued a plea Thursday afternoon for residents to take steps to help reduce the mosquito population, while a local Texas A&M AgriLife extension agent offered tips property owners can use to combat the pests until Mother Nature steps in.
Shaun May, director of Amarillo’s Environmental Health department, said his office has been fielding a common question in recent days: “Why are the mosquitoes so bad?”
He attributed the larger number, in part, to the third wettest July through October in the city’s history, with nearly 17 inches of rainfall recorded during that period.
“Mother Nature has the winning hand at the end of the day,” he said.
J.D. Ragland, a Randall County extension agent with Texas A&M AgriLife, said the mosquito problem has plagued the region with no real end immediately in sight.
“It’s kind of unusual to have mosquitoes this bad this late in the season, but getting that first heavy freeze — that will help,” he said.
Amarillo’s low so far this season has been 35 degrees, recorded in the early-morning hours of Oct. 10, and there aren’t any freezing temperatures in the city’s forecast anytime soon, said meteorologist Lance Goehring with the National Weather Service in Amarillo.
The city’s average first freeze of the season is between Oct. 16 and 20.
May said his crews are using their three fogging trucks four nights a week to treat the city for mosquitoes. Their priorities are public parks and around schools, hospitals and assisted living facilities, but they’re also responding to neighborhoods as they get citizen requests for treatment.
“We’re going to be doing that every week until we get a freeze,” he said.
May said mosquitoes can pose health risks to people, but added there haven’t been any locally-contracted cases of Zika virus or West Nile virus in Amarillo this year.
A statement from city spokesman Jesse Patton urges residents to remember the four “Ds” of mosquito control — “drain, Deet, dress, and dusk and dawn.” That means drain standing water, apply insect repellent containing Deet, dress in clothes with long sleeves and long pants while outside, and limit the amount of time spent outside at dusk and dawn.
Ragland recommended property owners mow their lawns, look for and empty containers of standing water — such as bird baths or pots — and consider spraying their entire lawns with any one of a variety of products such as Cyonara or treatments containing metofluthrin.
“They may need more than one application,” he said, cautioning those who do use chemical sprays to read the instructions.
Because mosquitoes don’t like wind and moving air, he said, fans on porches and patios also can keep the pests away.
Amarillo residents with questions or concerns regarding mosquitoes in their neighborhood, or who want to request their area be sprayed or fogged, are urged to call the city’s Environmental Health department at 806-378-9472.