What’s going on with mosquitoes?

Mosquitoes are bad this year in Utah.

That headline may not come as a surprise to those who have been outside this summer. According to a recent Fox 13 News story, the number of mosquitoes in Salt Lake County is close to twice the five-year average for the region.

It certainly isn’t a shock to those at the new Utah State Correctional Facility that opened in July. The overall increase in the bugs came just as the Utah Department of Corrections moved more than 3,000 incarcerated offenders, plus hundreds of staff and volunteers, to the location. Apparently, the critters are attracted to carbon dioxide. Humans call it exhaling. Since move-in day, the insects have been a constant source of irritation.

Yet the surge was unexpected at the new prison, since workers – topping more than 2,000 at some points – have been at the site for several years. During that time, there were no reports of mosquitoes being an issue.

Regardless of the cause, the goal for UDC officials is to manage the mosquito population with the help of the Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District.

“We have been working with SLCMAD since August to provide abatement measures, including spraying and traps,” said Kaitlin Felsted, Director of Communications for the Utah Department of Corrections. She added that the district was providing abatement services to USCF during some of the construction phase.

One big challenge has been the use of repellant. A number of such products are flammable, making them unsafe for a correctional facility.

“Prior to approving a repellant, our team reviewed potential safety concerns,” noted Felsted, who said a suitable product was found. “Bug repellant will be offered to the incarcerated through commissary in the coming weeks.”

She added that no staff or offenders at any state-operated correctional site have contracted a mosquito-borne illness.

In the future, Felsted said the UDC plans to have staff certified to use larvicide in the storm drains or where stagnant water is found on USCF property. These treatments would start in spring 2023.