Mosquito control in Benton County gets an upgrade

WEST RICHLAND, Wash. – The Benton County Mosquito Control District has brought in a new piece of technology to prevent the spread of West Nile Virus.

As temperatures heat up in the Tri-Cities, operations at the district speed up as well.

“We are full swing, all hands on deck right now. So we are at the peak of mosquito season and so we have a little bit of everything going on here at the district,” Angela Beehler, the District Manager said.

Between setting traps, sorting through mosquitoes and laying insecticide, Beehler said there’s also precautions that land and homeowners can take to prevent mosquito infestations, like getting rid of standing water.

“If those are standing for anything more than four days you’re gonna possibly have mosquitoes coming out of there,” she explained.

It’s also a busy time for Vector Biologist Jasmine Che.

She’s getting used to a new piece of equipment to examine mosquito samples; a Polymerase Chain Reaction or PCR test.

“So that would include West Nile Virus and we are also testing for St. Louis Encephalitis which we have not found in our area but it’s just a perk of using this machine,” she said.

It starts with staff who set and collect mosquito traps throughout the county.

Then, they sort through hundreds of mosquitoes to identify potential disease carriers. Che said female mosquitoes need blood to create and lay eggs, therefore only females bite humans and animals.

She then takes the samples, mixes them with chemicals and extracts viral RNA for the PCR test.

READ MORE: Preparing for summer means preparing for mosquitoes

“The perk of it is it give us really accurate results and then we can start you know, the next process or the next step in stopping that West Nile Virus sample,” she said it’s vital to preserve public health.

“That allows us to be able to get the public notifications out and let you know, that might be a good time to be conscious, wear extra repellant, stay indoors, long sleeve, long pants that sort of thing,” Angela added.

The mosquito control district has also implemented new drone technology to spread insecticide in hard to reach areas.

“Instead of sending our crews into muddy wetlands, or swamps or places with rattlesnakes, now we can use the drone to get to those areas and it’s less disturbance for the wildlife and environment, and we’ll still be able to get the control of the mosquitoes,” Angela said.

So far this season, West Nile hasn’t been detected in our area. However, that doesn’t mean you should let your guard down. Both women encourage everyone to be cognizant of where they’re going when headed outdoors, and dress appropriately.

To learn how you can prevent overgrowth of mosquitoes, visit their website.