Published May 20, 2010, 11:10 AM

Early spraying targets gnats

It's not mosquitoes, but gnats driving people nuts in Emerado and Grafton, where an aerial spraying is set for today. Grand Forks mosquito trap numbers are low.

With graduation ceremonies continuing and Memorial Day weekend approaching, communities are seeking protection from swarms of summer insects.

Grafton and Emerado, N.D., have scheduled an aerial application Friday from Custom Airborne Spraying of Halstad, Minn. But it’s not mosquitoes that are bugging people.

“We’re trying to put a dent in the gnats,” said Mike Houska, Grafton’s mosquito control officer. “They’re just horrible around here.”

Tyann Smothers, Emerado auditor, said she’s been hearing complaints about gnats from residents, but she wants to stay ahead of the mosquitoes.

“I wasn’t sure after all that rain if they would get out of control,” Smothers said.

The National Weather Service said much of Grand Forks County has seen 1 to 1.5 inches of rain in May, and the weekend forecast holds the potential for some local areas to see two more inches from thunderstorms over several days. Any standing water will provide breeding habitat for mosquitoes.

Dean Solum, owner of Custom Airborne Spraying, said he has a few appointments set for next week, and he expects more calls.

“The gnats are eating us alive out here at my airport,” Solum said. “The application is primarily for mosquitoes, but will take out the gnats.”

“We're starting to see some adult mosquitoes in our traps,” said Todd Hanson, mosquito control supervisor for Grand Forks County Public Health. “The average trap counts this week have been in the 30s.”

Trap counts of 100 trigger citywide mosquito spraying. Hanson said none of the mosquitoes collected were the West Nile virus–transmitting Culex tarsalis. Ground crews have been applying larvicide.

“We are seeing mosquito larvae at many of the sites,” Hanson said. “We will be spraying some of the high traffic areas before Memorial Day and if trap counts increase to an elevated nuisance level, we will schedule a citywide spray.”

Reach Johnson at (701) 780-1262; (800) 477-6572, ext. 262; or send e-mail to