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The Canyon County Mosquito Abatement District recently purchased an unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone, to assist in mosquito abatement. The $15,000 purchase equates roughly to the salary of a seasonal employee, and District officials hope this investment will boost productivity and increase their ability to control mosquito populations across the county.

“We were just working with the drone near Melba,” said District Director James Lunders, “It should help us control the mosquito populations for a month and free up other staff to work at more time-consuming areas.”

So far, the technology has proven useful in cutting down fogging time and has allowed the district to spread out personnel. An area that would have previously required four people over a four-hour period to fog now takes the drone and two people only 22 minutes.

Other counties in Idaho are also looking to invest in unmanned aerial vehicles. Vector Disease Control International, which has a contract with Payette County for mosquito abatement, has previously used drones in Wyoming and Colorado and is looking to implement the technology in Idaho as well.

“This technology is super beneficial,” said Payette County’s Program Manager Nikki Harris. “It’s a very effective method of treating areas that are harder to access on foot. I’m really excited for Canyon County to be getting access to that technology.”

Gem County Mosquito Abatement District has also made initial investments into drone technology. Officials hope the district will receive the equipment as early as this week.

“UAV’s are a very nice combination of types of use and variability to help control mosquitos,” Gem County Director Jason Kinley said. “I think it’ll be a tremendous asset.”

West Nile found in two counties

This summer, the abatement district has detected West Nile virus in four different mosquito pools, spanning from south of Melba to west of Parma. Payette and Canyon counties are the only two Idaho counties in which West Nile has been found, according to Canyon County Mosquito Abatement officials.

“It’s not surprising that we found the virus in the area,” said District Director James Lunders, “heat drives the cycle so with the extreme heat we’ve had, it isn’t surprising, but we still don’t like to see it.”

To help prevent further mosquito problems, district officials strongly encourage the public to take precautionary measures, including using EPA-approved insect repellents, avoiding being outdoors during dusk and dawn, covering exposed skin, and checking private properties for mosquitos.

“Anything that can hold water for seven days can produce mosquitos,” said Lunders, “all those containers should be checked, as well as irrigation systems and storm drains. It’s the small backyard containers that are usually the most difficult to control.”

Lunders also encourages people to use the online reporting system at the Canyon County Mosquito Abatement District website at canyoncountymosquito.com, where residents can submit service requests.

“It’s really important that we catch things early,” Lunders said. “These issues aren’t usually isolated, so reporting issues when you first see them may eliminate problems larger than just a single household.”

Sadie Dittenber covers Melba for the Kuna Melba News. She is a senior at The College of Idaho studying international political economy.

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