Minimize Menacing Mosquitos

By John Wilson, Extension Educator

Many people considered Memorial Day weekend as the official beginning of the outdoor summer season with barbecues, boating, fishing and ball games… or just mowing your lawn or working in your garden. Nothing spoils these outdoor activities quicker than being swarmed by mosquitoes. Recent rains have provided moisture we’ll need later this summer, but they also can cause problems for anyone working outside. Rain creates ideal sites with standing water for mosquitoes to develop.

To reduce this problem, eliminate mosquito breeding areas that catch and hold water. Check for leaf-clogged gutters, puddles, bird baths, old tires, cans, bottles, lagoons, and children’s wading pools. Drain water from these when practical. Rinse out your bird bath weekly.

Still water in birdbaths, ponds or lagoons may also be treated with Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, in the form of biscuits, available at some garden and hardware stores. The sustained release of the active ingredients of these products may provide up to 30 days control of mosquito larvae. These products specifically attack mosquito larvae and will not harm fish or birds or wildlife that drink the water.

Only female mosquitoes possess piercing-sucking mouthparts and require a blood meal to produce viable eggs. Eggs are laid in batches between blood meals. A single female may deposit several hundred eggs in her lifetime. Under favorable conditions, a new generation of mosquitoes can be completed in less than a week.

To keep mosquitoes out of your home, check all doors, windows and window screens, to make sure these are tight and in good repair. Screens should be 1/16th-inch mesh or smaller to prevent mosquito entry into the home. Keep porch lights off as much as possible in the evening. Or, replace traditional white light bulbs with yellow ones to help reduce the attractiveness of your home to mosquitoes and other night-flying insects.

To prevent mosquito bites when working outside, wear long-sleeved shirts and full length pants. Two layers of clothing are more difficult to penetrate by biting mosquitoes. Wearing light-colored clothes will reduce your attractiveness. Work outdoors when it is cooler, or when there is a brisk air movement or strong sunlight. Different species of mosquitoes have specific feeding periods, but many are most active in the early evening hours, generally from 5 to 9 p.m.

But, because female mosquitoes are attracted to the carbon dioxide that we exhale, using an insect repellent while outdoors may be the most important method to prevent mosquito bites. You can use repellents containing DEET. These come under numerous brand labels and many formulations such as lotions, gels, aerosols, creams, and sticks.

Mosquitoes are always a nuisance, but they can also pose a health risk because of their potential to transmit West Nile Virus (WNV). In humans, WNV causes flu-like symptoms such as fever and muscle weakness. WNV can also cause encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain), disorientation, convulsions and paralysis. People over 50 (years ago I would have said older people, but not now!) and those with weak immune systems are especially vulnerable to the disease and should take extra precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

For more information on mosquito control, contact your local Nebraska Extension office.

John Wilson

John Wilson

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