NORMAN — Stephen Warren seeks out the little pests everyone else tries to avoid in the summer to ensure Norman residents can enjoy the season without irritating bites and West Nile Virus.
Warren is halfway through his second summer of working as the vector control officer for the city of Norman Parks and Recreation Department. It’s his job mid-March through September to make sure the city’s mosquito population is kept under control throughout the warmest and dampest months of the year.
Norman is unique to most surrounding cities and states in that while other cities wait for complaints before they start spraying for the pests or spray regardless of complaints, Norman’s mosquito population is monitored every day to determine whether a spray is needed. Warren monitors the number of mosquitoes in Norman by trapping and counting them.
Each trap resembles a lantern with a light at the top to attract the mosquitoes, which get caught in a fan and pushed down the trap into a small jar where they’re killed by a pesticide.
Warren makes his rounds to each of the 13 traps about every other day and collects the dead female mosquitoes — the biters — out of the jars and takes them to his office to count them. If he finds 50 female mosquitoes in one trap for three consecutive days, he’ll investigate the area around the trap and consider whether it’s worth spraying.
“There are areas that are worse than others — you can just about count on it,” said Bill Ulch, Norman superintendent of parks.
Several factors can make an area a prime breeding spot for mosquitoes — particularly moisture and heat.
Mosquitoes tend to multiply after weather like Monday and Tuesday’s, when rain cools temperatures down and then it quickly heats up again, making the air very humid, Warren said. Mosquitoes love humidity and moisture, so their favorite places to congregate are near standing water or in areas of high foliage that hold in the humidity.