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Laramie Beekeeper Works To Change Mosquito Control Methods

With snow in the forecast, you’re probably not thinking much about mosquitoes. But the Laramie City Council is.

Laramie Beekeeper Helen Coates says last July, after the city sprayed organophosphates--a powerful common insecticide-- on the fields surrounding the city, she found hundreds of dead bees outside her hive. She says the chemical may be the cheapest approach, but it’s the worst for the environment.

“If you go spray, for example, a field of blooming yellow clover, you’re going to kill all the pollinators, probably some birds, it’s toxic to fish, etc.”

Coates says the underlying problem is the way hay growers irrigate their fields.

If you go spray, for example, a field of blooming yellow clover, you are going to kill all the pollinators, probably some birds, it is toxic to fish, etc.

“We have a mammoth mosquito problem because we have 200,000 acres out in the valley where they’re growing hay,” she says. “And these flooded acres can produce up to 10 million mosquitoes per acre.”

Coates suggests educating ranchers on better irrigation methods to keep mosquito numbers down. 

After her bees died, Coates complained to several city and state agencies, and now the city of Laramie is looking at alternatives. Parks and Recreation Manager Paul Harrison says one option is to kill mosquitoes as larva.

“They make larval control in a granular that will drop through that grass as it gets taller and get to the water. And we’ve done some granular trials and we found it be very effective," he says. "We do it in small areas. We’d like to look at doing it in large aerial applications with an aircraft and covering large amount of acres.”

Harrison says many communities around the country are moving away from the use organophosphates using such larvacides. But he says, there are drawbacks.

“Typically when we’re doing organophosphate, we’ll cover 15,000 acres in a day. Larval, the most we can typically do is 4 or 5,000 acres. So it takes more applications, more specific targeting and you have to make sure that the grass is at the right height.”

Harrison says the city council is open to trying a hybrid approach of killing larva and adult mosquitos, but he says they wants to make sure the city kills as many mosquitos as they already do, currently.

He say the council will host a public hearing on the issue in coming months. 

Melodie Edwards is the host and producer of WPM's award-winning podcast The Modern West. Her Ghost Town(ing) series looks at rural despair and resilience through the lens of her hometown of Walden, Colorado. She has been a radio reporter at WPM since 2013, covering topics from wildlife to Native American issues to agriculture.
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