St. Paul (WCCO) – A regional conference in the Twin Cities will have a bearing on how much you’ll enjoy the coming summer.

That’s because 120 members of the North Central Mosquito Control Association are gathered at the University of Minnesota to discuss insect control strategies and surveillance.

They’re hearing about the latest tools and techniques being employed to track and eradicate pesky insects, such as mosquitoes, bed bugs and black-legged (deer) ticks.

It’s a clear mission to reduce both insect bites and the disease they can spread.

“This is really just a way of exchanging technology,” Mike McLean with the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District said. “Teaching them some new tricks, learning about the best practices as we go forward.”

McLean said it’s about making everyone more efficient at insect control, whether that means attacking mosquitoes in Nebraska or monitoring the spread of deer ticks in Minnesota.

Janet Jarenfeld, an infectious disease expert with the MMCD, said the deer tick population continues to grow and spread geographically.

“Last year our tick surveillance provided record levels, and we suspect this will continue into this year, but each year’s different,” she said.

So far the outlook appears slightly better for mosquitoes. That is due to the current drought across much of the state. MMCD surveys reveal that only 10 to 20 percent of mosquito breeding areas are holding water.

Those eggs will lay dormant and not hatch until covered by standing water.

Conferees are also hearing about new control and monitoring tactics, from helicopter spraying to methods of finding breeding habitats with the use of drones.

And with growing concern over protecting honeybees and hives, being accurate in the attack has never been more important.

“So whether you’re talking about mosquitoes, bedbugs or anything, we want to make sure you know what you’re doing and not killing a lot of other things in the meantime,” McLean said.

The conference also discussed a new mosquito borne disease called Chikungunya that the Centers for Disease Control is keeping close tabs on.

Last summer, the CDC recorded the first case stemming from local mosquito transmission of a patient in Florida.

Chikungunya causes sudden and severe fever and joint pains.

Bill Hudson

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