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This bites: Mosquito season is underway

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In yet another sign of spring, Minnesota's annual battle against the mosquito has been launched.

Metropolitan Mosquito Control District helicopters this week are buzzing over Twin Cities wetlands and other large areas of standing water in an annual battle against the airborne pest.

Three choppers took flight Tuesday, hitting areas of Afton, Apple Valley, Eagan, Eden Prairie, Inver Grove Heights, Little Canada, Maplewood, Mendota Heights, North St. Paul, St. Paul, South St. Paul, Shoreview, Rosemount, Roseville, Sand Creek Township, Savage, Shakopee and West St. Paul, according to the MMCD.

The agency says it will try to keep a list here of updated areas targeted for spraying. You can see if the agency typically treats your area here.

Post by Metropolitan Mosquito Control District.

Officials note that they do not spray insecticides to control adult mosquitoes. Instead, helicopters apply dry pellets of an agent called methoprene, which contains a natural soil bacterium that prevents larval mosquitoes from growing into biting adults. The treatments pose no risk to human or animal health, officials note.

With ice still on some metro-area lakes, it might seem a bit early to start battling the buzzy bugs. But mosquito-control officials say they are getting started about a week later than last year, due to cold and snow.

“They’re available to hatch as soon as the snow starts to melt,” MMCD spokesman Mike McLean told the Star Tribune. “A lot of them are found from here all the way into the tundra. They’re well-adapted to winter.”

Worldwide, mosquitoes are blamed for 3 million deaths a year from diseases like malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever and West Nile virus, although most mosquito-borne disease deaths occur in a band of countries along the equator.

Last year there were 79 cases of West Nile virus in Minnesota, with three deaths, according to state statistics (county-by-county map/stats here). That compared to 70 cases and one death in 2012.

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