An unusually mosquito-ridden summer inspired the Albany County Commission to allocate $20,170 to the Big Laramie Mosquito Control Corporation as part of its budgeting process for the 2020 fiscal year.
Typically, the county’s only allocation for fighting mosquitos each year is the matching funds it puts up to receive grant funding from the Wyoming Department of Agriculture’s Emergency Insect Management Program Grant Agreement.
However, funding shortfalls in the Big Laramie district led its representatives to request $10,170 from the county’s 1% sales tax funding this year.
The Big Laramie mosquito group conducts aerial applications on the west side of town along the Laramie River.
Formed in the early 1970s, the group relies on membership donations and state grants.
The request made to the county said that corporation began as “a volunteer effort by the local ranchers and as such has been a voluntary-based operation since its inception.”
“Initially the program targeted nuisance mosquitoes to help the livestock and the ranchers during the haying season,” the request states. “As more mosquito-borne diseases became prevalent in the area, the program took on the additional aspect of a human health operation.”
The request states that operational costs have been increasing at about 3.4% annually without an equivalent increase in funding.
“Since we are adjacent to the city of Laramie’s mosquito control area, the success of our program somewhat dictates the success of Laramie’s program,” the request states. “If we need to reduce the acreage that we spray, that will mean more mosquitoes will drift into Laramie which will degrade the overall quality, character and health of the community.”
Unlike the city of Laramie, Albany County’s government does not maintain a mosquito control staff, and instead Albany County commissioners distribute money from the state grant to various private mosquito groups and the city to fund their efforts. Albany County Weed and Pest also gives money to groups like the Big Laramie corporation.
For the 2019 fiscal year, the group estimates that it will have $77,660 in expenses compared to $69,700 in revenue.
Ultimately, county commissioners decided to double the amount of funding that was requested by the group after West Nile Virus was found in the county June.
“I’ve gotten a lot of phone calls from ag producers now that we’ve found West Nile,” Commissioner Heber Richardson said. “A few thousand dollars on mosquito control could save tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in livestock losses. Mosquitoes make it so your livestock can’t stand still, and West Nile is nasty. It can kill people or make them different for the rest of their lives when they survive.”
On Tuesday, commissioners also signed an agreement with the state to receive its annual mosquito grant from the state. This year, the county is receiving $57,009, which will be distributed among three private mosquito groups and public entities.
However, the grant will also require all entities to come up with $79,875 of matching funds.
That’s a little less than the county received last year when the county was awarded $61,000 and had to put up $89,000 in matching funds.
Bailey Quick, grants specialist for Albany County, said the state’s insect program put out less in mosquito funding this year because of an increased grasshopper problem in northern Wyoming.
Tyler Shevling, who oversees the city’s mosquito control program, told the Laramie Boomerang that the city also received a reduced funding amount of $45,700 from the state this year, which is matched with $45,000 of city funds.
Shevling said that funding is used mostly to control the vector mosquitos and not as much to combat the nuisance population.
“This season’s been particularly difficult with the weather,” he said.
Larvae were first found March 29, and Shevling said the city’s applied twice as much chemical for larvae control as it did last year.
Night fogging had been limited in June because of the poor weather conditions, Shevling said.
“We don’t see great control until about 50 degrees and the wind speeds are below 10 degrees,” Shevling said.
He expects that his division is “definitely going to have an extended season” this year.
“The river usually peaks May 21, and we’re still at high water,” he said.
When the weather was cooler in June, Shevling said the counts for mosquitoes that are vectors for West Nile were pretty low. Those numbers are starting to rise as temperatures have increased.