On Gardening: Tactics for avoiding the bite of mosquitoes
by Shane Harris
Special to The Star
Aug 26, 2012 | 1872 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Of all the insects we have in Alabama, mosquitoes rank No. 1 in my book as the most annoying insect pest. And for some reason, they seem to be even more of a nuisance this year. I cannot even go outside to relax on the porch after work without having to swat away hungry mosquitoes. Ugh! Other than food for bats and dragonflies, mosquitoes serve absolutely no purpose. More significantly, mosquitoes bite, carry diseases and are responsible for more human deaths than any other insect in the world.

Mosquito control is difficult and usually limited to prevention methods. Homeowners can most effectively reduce the number of mosquitoes around their homes and neighborhoods by eliminating standing water in which mosquitoes grow and breed. Female mosquitoes lay their eggs on water or moist substrates such as soil and the interior of walls of treeholes, cans and old tires that are likely to be flooded by water. Most larvae hatch within 48 hours and then live in the water for a little while longer. Adult mosquitoes emerge soon after.

Control mosquitoes

• Dispose of any refuse that can hold water, including containers, tin cans and old tires.

• Drill holes in the bottoms of recycling containers and check uncovered junk piles.

• Clean clogged roof gutters every year, check storm drains and leaky outdoor faucets.

• Empty accumulated water from wheelbarrows, boats, cargo trailers, pet dishes, toys, and ceramic pots. Do not allow water to stagnate in birdbaths, ornamental pools, water gardens and swimming pools or their covers. Swimming pools should be cleaned and chlorinated when not in use. You want to eliminate all standing water. Keep in mind that during warm weather, mosquitoes can breed in any puddle of water.

• Eliminate seepage from cisterns, cesspools and septic tanks.

• Water plants and lawns in the morning and so that water is not left standing for several days.

• Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish. People with lily ponds can get mosquito fish (Gambusia), which eat mosquito larvae and live happily with goldfish. Larvicides or “mosquito dunks” are highly effective in controlling immature mosquitoes and should be considered when standing water cannot be eliminated.

Prevent bites

Preventing mosquito bites is the next best tactic. Start by avoiding outdoor activities between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are looking for a blood meal. If not, cover up by wearing shoes, socks, long pants and long sleeved shirts; light-colored clothing is better. Apply a “bug spray” or repellant for personal protection. Those containing diethyl toluamide (DEET) are effective in discouraging mosquitoes from biting. The higher the percentage of DEET in the product, the longer the protection lasts. Non-Deet repellants may provide some relief but typically do not last as long.

Eliminating adult mosquitoes all together would be the perfect solution, but in reality is a major undertaking and impossible. One can try by managing the home landscape vegetation since adult mosquitoes rest on dense vegetation during the day. Cut tall weeds, and keep shrubs and trees trimmed away from the house to increase air circulation.

Spray shrubs and the lower branches of trees where mosquitoes rest with an insecticide. Registered insecticide for adult mosquito control include cyfluthrin, lambda-cyhalothrin, and permethrin, yard foggers, which typically contain pyrethrins may be set off shortly before an outside activity to provide temporary relief from mosquitoes.

Note: Insecticides used in an area provide temporary relief of mosquitoes and not long-term control. Like most insects, mosquitoes have the ability to reproduce rapidly and replace any dent that might occur in the population.

Finally, beware of mosquito control gimmicks such as bug zappers, traps, electronic devices, candles, plants, etc. Research studies have proven that most of them are not only costly but quite ineffective in controlling or providing relief of mosquitoes. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

Out here on my front porch, I use a plain old fly swatter. It works, unless I miss. Got ’em! Just a gazillion more to go.

Shane Harris is an Extension Agent for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
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On Gardening: Tactics for avoiding the bite of mosquitoes by Shane Harris
Special to The Star

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