County fights lonely battle against pest

Twin Falls County is the only county in Idaho taking measures to control black flies, tiny bugs that bite, measure a sixteenth of an inch and have a range of 20 or 30 miles.

TWIN FALLS, Idaho (AP) — Officials in Twin Falls County in south-central Idaho want other counties to start helping in the fight against a disease-spreading pest that can cause illness in livestock and humans.

“There is little an individual can do to reduce black fly populations,” County Pest Abatement District Director Kirk Tubbs told The Times-News. “Black fly control is best accomplished on a regional level by targeting the larvae in canals and rivers before they hatch.”

But he said Twin Falls County is the only county in Idaho taking measures to control black flies, tiny bugs that bite, measure a sixteenth of an inch and have a range of 20 or 30 miles.

“We are one rodeo away from an infestation,” Tubbs told a group Tuesday during a black fly field day at Rock Creek Park.

The flies carry a virus that mimics foot-and-mouth disease in animals and can cause significant economic loss. The bugs can be so numerous they can prevent livestock from grazing.

In humans, the illness resembles influenza, and as a result is rarely reported.

“This is the perfect time for transmission of the disease,” said Dr. Bill Barton, veterinarian with the Idaho Department of Agriculture.

Tubbs says controlling black flies is done by targeting larvae in canals and rivers before they hatch. The county spends about $200,000 a year trying to control black flies.

“You can treat for them, but it won’t do you any good unless your neighbors treat too,” said Nate Hill, a horse and livestock owner in Cassia County.

How quickly the black flies grow from egg to adult depends on water temperature, but the process generally takes about seven to 10 days. Experts say a mile of river or canal can produce up to a billion black flies per day. Twin Falls County has about 2,000 miles of canals and other waterways.



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