Rains bring relief, worry of disease-bearing insects

Freedom New Mexico: Tony Bullocks Veterinarian David J. Orton of Clovis Equine Center, gives Duce a vaccine Thursday to fight against West Nile, encephalitis, and tetanus.

By Eric Butler: Freedom New Mexico

Just add water. It’s a good thing for some recipes and maybe a Chia Pet.

And in eastern New Mexico, few dispute the need for rain and most are glad anytime it comes.

But, if it does come like it has during the last couple of months, water can have some undesired consequences.

Pools of standing water can be breeding grounds for certain insects, like mosquitos, which can then propagate and spread diseases among humans and animals.

“Most of the insects I’ve noticed over the summer, whenever the rain would come, there’d be a new crop of something, whether it be moth, bug, beetle, fly or whatever, which would increase after they got some moisture,” said Patrick Kircher, state extension service agent for Roosevelt County. “I haven’t seen much in mosquitos where I live, but I imagine some late rains will bring them on.”

Portales, according to the National Weather Service office in Albuquerque has received 9.09 inches of rain from the beginning of June to the end of August.

It’s Clovis, though, where the numbers are much higher — in precipitation and bugs.

In the same three-month period, Clovis has accumulated 12.15 inches and more than 10 inches of that fell in the two most recent months.

And, no matter how dry the weather may have been for months and months before, the arrival of water almost inevitably leads to an increase of insects that were only dormant — although they seemed nonexistent.

“It’s almost like, ‘Whoa! Where’d they come from?’” said Carol Sutherland, state entomologist with the New Mexico Department of Agriculture. “You’ll have a nice dry habitat where everything’s comfortable being out in the yard. All of a sudden you get some rain, and if it pools up to any extent, you can produce a generation of mosquitoes.

“Some of them will winter in protected places. They’re like a lot of other things that seem to explode when you have rain,” Sutherland added. “The adults are around although not very prominent. When conditions aren’t suitable for them, they kind of hide out.”

Though West Nile Virus mostly affects birds, it’s also been known to be found in humans, horses, dogs, cats and other animals. It’s spread courtesy of the mosquito.

The little insect also is a carrier of viruses that cause heartworm in dogs and cats as well as two kinds (Eastern and Western) of equine encephalitis among horses.

“We’re at the beginning of the peak season,” said David Orton, a veterinarian with the Clovis Equine Center.

Orton said a horse could see symptoms of mosquito-borne diseases within seven days of being bitten.

Preventative maintenance is the best bet, Orton said, and because the equine diseases are life-threatening a commonly administered vaccine should be given to the animal.

At the Clovis Veterinary Hospital, Veterinarian Rebekah Ford said she hadn’t necessarily seen an increase of diseases because of wet weather. However, the jury is still out.

“Even if a dog or cat is infected, it (heartworm) won’t show up for another six months,” Ford said.

“Bugs are just a part of life. I’m sure they can reach the amount of numbers to be unpleasant, but I think most people would still like to have some rain.”