Mosquitoes undeterred by drought: Four tips to protect your horse

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By Robin Young 

PREVIEW Columnist

While much of the western half of the United States endures near-historic drought levels, one might anticipate this year’s mosquito season to be a walk in the park.

“Just because we don’t have rain doesn’t mean we don’t have mosquitoes,” explained Department Head for Entomology and Plant Pathology at Oklahoma State University and former livestock entomologist Justin Talley, Ph.D. “Some of the most significant West Nile virus outbreak years have been associated without significant rainfall. Be aware, just because you don’t see water doesn’t mean there are no breeding areas around.”

Talley shared how the culex mosquito, which is responsible for transmitting core equine diseases such as West Nile virus, can populate in the most unsuspecting places. Standing, puddling water is not needed. 

“One would think that wet years equal more equine West Nile virus cases; however, the type of mosquitoes transmitting these equine diseases can develop in muddy water or a storm drain. There’s a lot of water you don’t see,” he said. 

Even a tiny hole in a tree — with just a bit of water — is enough for the culex mosquito to repopulate within. 

“The thing about mosquitoes is they’re very diverse in the habitat they can modify to and it’s their adaptive behaviors that allow them to be successful,” Talley said.

As risk remains for mosquito-transmitted equine diseases, even in areas impacted by drought, is your horse protected? 

“Once our nighttime temps are above 50 degrees or daytime is above 80 degrees, that’s the likelihood of when mosquitoes will develop,” Talley said.

Horses are threatened with mortality rates up to 90 percent from mosquito-transmitted diseases.

“The three big equine diseases transmitted by mosquitoes are West Nile virus, eastern equine encephalomyelitis (EEE) and western equine encephalomyelitis (WEE). Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis (VEE) isn’t typically a problem, but there have been years with outbreaks in specific areas,” warned Tony Hawkins, DVM, technical service veterinarian.

These diseases can attack and inflame a horse’s nervous system. EEE, WEE and VEE are spread to horses by mosquitoes, which feed on infected birds and rodents that serve as the virus reservoirs. West Nile virus is transmitted by mosquitoes, which feed on infected birds.

Four tips to protect
your horse 

Tip 1: Vaccinate horses. Horses all across the country are at risk for West Nile virus. It’s important to vaccinate horses before, or at least early in, the mosquito season. Vaccines provide horses with long-lasting immunity. 

“When horses receive their two initial doses, then after that they have a yearly booster, we will have a good response seven days post vaccination,” said Hawkins.

Tip 2: Hang livestock fans. 

“We know that putting fans on horses will prevent some of the mosquitoes from feeding on them — it’s a good, natural thing to utilize. If it’s a slow-moving fan, like a box fan in your barn by your stall, it won’t do much. But a high-powered fan, that’s going to help keep away the mosquitoes,” said Talley.

Tip 3: Rid standing water. Hawkins encouraged that horse owners eliminate as much standing water as possible, and empty and clean their horse’s water sources at least weekly.

Tip 4: Minimize horses’ exposure. Keep horses inside the barn under fans during prime mosquito feeding times, which include dusk and dawn, encouraged Hawkins.

Take steps to keep your horses safe and comfortable as mosquitoes make their presence known. 

Archuleta County Fair

The Archuleta County Fair is set for Aug. 4-7. 

Have you ever wanted to enter the Archuleta County Fair? Are you a woodworker, potter, jeweler, photographer, painter or knitter? Or, maybe you grow vegetables or bake cookies? Would you like to showcase your creations? These are just some of the many divisions that you can enter in Open Class. 

Go to https://www.archuletacountyfair.com and look up the 2022 Fair Book for the rules. Judging will be Aug. 3. 

If you have further questions, please email archuletacountyfair@gmail.com. 

You could earn a Grand Champion ribbon at the Archuleta County Fair.

Volunteers needed

Archuleta County 4-H needs volunteers. We are looking for a short-term commitment for superintendents at the county fair. 

Please contact our office at (970) 264-5931 or contact 4-H Coordinator Becky Jacobson at rjacobson@archuletacounty.org.

CPR and first aid classes

CPR and first aid certification classes are offered every other month (February, April, June, August, October and December) from 6 to 10 p.m. The cost for the classes is $80 for combined CPR/first aid, and $55 for CPR, first aid or recertification. Call the Extension office at (970) 264-5931 to register.

Visit online

Visit us on the Web at https://archuleta.extension.colostate.edu/ or like us on Facebook and get more information: https://www.facebook.com/CSUARCHCTY and https://www.facebook.com/ArchuletaCounty4H.