With spring and early summer rains hopefully coming our way soon and both large field and small flowerbed irrigations firing up, controlling mosquitoes and the threat of disease transmission that they bring is something worth taking a close look at for all of us. From an integrated approach, mosquitoes are no different from any other targeted pest causing problems. We need to try and implement as many varying and uniquely different control measures as we can to affectively control our enemy-pests so that they do not become a serious problem.
For mosquitoes, many of the control measures I will be recommending are preventative in nature and should lower the overall mosquito population in your area and lessen our dependence upon chemical control alone. We must have a plan in place to control mosquitoes before they try to ‘carry us off’ from our backyard activities or we hear reports about the alarming numbers of West Nile cases in our area hospitals. Preventative control measures do require a proactive effort. None of these mosquito IPM strategies I will be sharing are very time consuming, nor do they cost a tremendous amount to implement and I feel that you might be pleasantly surprised by the results.
Understanding our enemy is the first step toward sound IPM. There are multiple and numerous species of mosquitoes that haunt our area. All of these species of mosquitoes require water to complete their life cycle. The aquatic larval life stage of mosquitoes are referred to as wigglers. These wigglers are harmless. In most aquatic ecosystems, wigglers form the base of the food chain. Even most adult mosquitoes pose no threat to humans. It is only the female mosquito that parasitically feeds on blood, and she only does that when she is ready to lay her eggs. These females utilize blood for a protein boost to both give them the energy for the monumental process of laying possibly hundreds of viable eggs. When these female mosquitoes are ready for a blood-meal, they become almost super parasites with some truly amazing abilities to seek out and successfully feast upon unsuspecting victims.
These facts usually set people to thinking about just how many mosquitoes there really are around us all spring and summer. It can be staggering to think just how bad mosquitoes would be if they were full time parasites. That fact set aside, hopefully we can make note of some weaknesses in the mosquitoes’ life cycle that we can attack.
Mosquitoes must have water to complete their life cycle. My first recommendation for lowering the mosquito population in your area is to deny them that water. That is easier said than done. Even in the midst of the current drought, we have not been mosquito free. That is because mosquitoes do not require very much water. In fact, some of our most dangerous disease vectoring mosquito species can complete their wiggler larval stage and be ready for adulthood in as little as a cup of water and in about five days, temperature depending. That ability makes completely denying mosquitoes access to water impossible. However, with vigilance we can significantly lower the mosquito population through limiting the availability of that standing water.
We can limit that water by doing a few little things. Mosquitoes can easily reproduce in things we often overlook. A child’s toy left unattended in the back yard that catches rain or yard sprinkler water, a pet’s outdoor drinking bowl, livestock tanks, uncovered rain collection barrels, or that water holding pothole in the back alley are all viable examples of places that mosquitoes will choose to lay eggs and successfully reproduce. In every one of these examples, we can limit mosquito reproduction. The child’s toy can be picked up or water emptied, the pet’s drinking water can be changed every four days, livestock tanks can be stocked with predatory fish, rainwater collection barrels can be made air tight, and potholes can be filled or drained.
Another opportunity to lessen the mosquito population occurs when they are young adults. Young adult mosquitoes do breathe air, but remain partial to cool, damp, and shady areas. Locations like tall grass, weedy patches, or horticulture features that include tall plants are all prime haunts for mosquito hideouts. By keeping the grass and weeds mowed or controlled near your house or barns should seriously limit mosquito’s access to your family and livestock. A nifty horticulture feature in your yard that involves tall, shade offering plants can be treated with insecticides to kill mosquitoes before they move to attack. Often cities, communities, and owners of county homes proactively treat large areas for mosquitoes. The product Malathion is commonly used for this purpose. While Malathion is proven to be predictably safe to humans and the environment it should be handled with respect and with adherence to safely. If this is an option for you to treat an area for yourself, please follow the label.
Finally we come to dealing with the female mosquitoes that are actively seeking a blood-meal. You might have heard of some of these before but they still make good sense. When venturing out doors, always wear a proven form of mosquito repellent. Products containing the active ingredient DEET are all proven to repel mosquitoes. Picaridin is a newer, differing active ingredient and shows some real potential as a mosquito repellent.
There are several ways to limit our exposure to mosquitoes. Mosquitoes prefer to remain inactive during hotter hours of the day. For this reason we could avoid going outside during dawn, dusk, or night time hours during mosquito season if possible. Wearing long sleeve shirts and pants when venturing into mosquito habitats can also prevent some mosquito bites. Making use of light traps or bug zappers, sticky traps, etc. will also nab several mosquitoes before they are able to find a blood-meal.
Hopefully we have shared some ideas with you that will keep those mosquitoes at bay this summer for our community and families. Please call or come by my office if I can help in any way. Good luck,