Serving Montana Agriculture and growing prosperity under the Big Sky

Pest Management

Programs Dealing with Invasive Pests and Diseases

Insects Good & Bad

mosquitoThe department's Commodity Services Bureau assists in efforts to halt the spread of invasive weed, insect and disease pests, which helps to assure that agricultural products can move freely in commerce.

The bureau also manages other programs including pest surveys and risk assessments, as well as inspections, investigations, quarantines and enforcement actions to assure regulatory compliance. It provides phytosanitary inspections and export certificationto assure that commodities and products meet requirements set by importing states and countries.

Not all bugs are bad, many insects are beneficial as pollinators, predators, and nutrient recyclers.

Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey (CAPS): Monitoring Insect and Disease Pests

The CAPS program conducts science-based national and state surveys targeted at specific exotic plant pests, diseases, and weeds identified as threats to U.S. agriculture and/or the environment. These activities are accomplished primarily under USDA funding that is provided through cooperative agreements with state departments of agriculture, universities, and other entities.

Transporting live plants, recreational equipment, firewood and other items that may contain invasive pests can spread insects and diseases that are harmful to Montana's native plants and agricultural crops. If in doubt, please call a department office for information. You can also visit the Don't Move Firewood and Hungry Pests national websites.

The Japanese Beetle can be devastating to lawns and landscape plants. It arrived in recent years near the Billings airport, where it likely hitched a ride on air cargo flights. Emerald Ash Borer, found several years ago in Michigan, has been expanding its territory and could threaten the future for Montana's common green ash trees.

The national Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey (CAPS) program provides for surveillance, detection and monitoring of agricultural crop pests and biological control agents using pheromone traps. It is a combined effort by federal and state agricultural organizations. Data from Montana is entered into the National Agricultural Pest Information System, a national database housed at Purdue University.

Coordination and funding for CAPS are provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture through its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which operates the Plant Protection and Quarantine Program.

MDA's Role in Mosquito Abatement

Mosquitoes are in the order Diptera ("two wings") one of the largest and most diverse insect groups. Their relatives range from predatory horse flies and robber flies to house flies, gnats, and fruit flies. A fair number of flies are even parasitic at some point in their life cycle. All flies go through complete metamorphosis (egg to larvae to pupae to adult) and have legless larvae.

Mosquitoes are very diverse, even by the standards of the Diptera. Their larvae are always aquatic, but are found in habitats from pools of glacial melt-water to hot springs, slow-moving rivers and lakes to small accumulations of water in containers and tires. Only the female mosquito bites (to obtain the blood meal she needs to make eggs), but most are very particular about what they bite. Some feed on mammals, some bite only birds, and some are specialized to feed on only amphibians or reptiles.

Mosquitoes lay their eggs in or near water. Some lay directly on the water, and the eggs hatch immediately. Some lay their eggs at some distance above the water line; these eggs hatch only when the area floods enough to cover them. This is why large numbers of mosquitoes seem to appear from nowhere after floods: the eggs are already there.

Mosquito-borne disease is fortunately not common in Montana. Several types of equine encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis, and West Nile virus (another encephalitis) have been found here in the last few decades, but cases have been few and fatalities even fewer. The best protection against mosquito-borne disease is repellents such as DEET or picaridin, applied as directed on the product labels. Some "natural" or "soft" chemical repellents such as essential oils and plant extracts are effective, but do not last as long as DEET or picaridin. Electronic, magnetic, and ultrasonic devices have repeatedly and conclusively been shown to be utterly ineffective.

The aggravation caused by large numbers of mosquitoes is not insignificant, however. Landing rates of 3-5 mosquitoes a minutes are enough to interfere with normal outdoor activities, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). At landing rates near 20 per minute livestock lose weight rapidly and human activity outdoors is difficult. After floods and hurricanes, CDC has recorded landing rates up to 200 mosquitoes per minute. This is more than enough to make repair and disaster-recovery efforts impossible.

Mosquito Abatement in Montana

There are a number of Mosquito Abatement Districts in Montana, and several towns have their own mosquito abatement equipment. In some areas private businesses are available to treat for mosquitoes. IPM mosquito-control methods do include conventional pesticide applications to knock down the nuisance populations of adults, but rely more heavily on population monitoring, treating or eliminating breeding sites (standing water, egg-laden vegetation in floodplains, old tires and other containers), and education of the public.

The Department of Agriculture is not directly involved in mosquito control activities. We do, however, regulate pesticide use, register mosquito-control pesticides and repellents, and license and recertify the pesticide applicators involved in mosquito control. We provide technical support and work closely with mosquito control districts to identify mosquitoes, train pesticide applicators, and ensure that the machines used for adulticide applications are properly calibrated.

Protecting Montana Agriculture from Invasive Pests

The department administers and enforces several plant pest quarantines that affect interstate and international movement of agricultural commodities, as well as weed quarantines to prevent the spread of invasive species. These quarantines were adopted to prevent the introduction of pests that are not established in Montana and to protect Montana agricultural commodities and native plant species.

State Quarantines

Federal Quarantines

Additional Information

Pest: Contagious diseases of seed potatoes
Regulated Area: All states
Regulated Articles: Certified seed potatoes for commercial purposes
Restrictions: Regulated articles may not be imported into Montana for any commercial purpose unless the seed potatoes meet all of the following conditions:

  1. from seed stock produced as a part of a certified seed potato crop in the state or country of origin and certified as being from that stock;
  2. subject to inspection at the Montana receiving point by a federal or state-federal standard grade inspector;
  3. shipped in a clean, disinfected container or transportation carrier; and
  4. accompanied by a USDA or state or origin certification of inspection describing the seed variety, seed class, standard grade, quality or condition, and seed source and have affixed to each inspection certificate an official state of origin seed potato certification tag or label.

Invasive Species Programs, Services & Information

Pests/Invasive Species Forms & Files

Related Links