Protecting Your Family From Mosquitoes
Given all the media attention about mosquitoes and the Zika virus lately, I wanted to talk about the best ways we can prevent mosquitoes in our landscapes and protect our loved ones. Zika is a virus spread by a particular species of mosquito, Aedes aegypti. This species of mosquito has not yet been found in North Carolina. Likewise, the Zika virus has not been found in mosquitoes in NC. However, mosquito control is important to controlling the spread of this and other diseases and our warm, wet weather makes this a timely topic.
When used properly, pesticides can be an important component of a mosquito control program but relying on pesticides alone is not a good option. We are most successful when we use an integrated mosquito management program that focuses first on reducing mosquito populations and keeping them out of our homes and businesses. The best way to control mosquitoes is to reduce their opportunity to reproduce.
Mosquitoes prefer to lay their eggs in small pools of stagnant
water – particularly temporary water sources such as objects or areas that are filled with debris and water. The debris serves as a food source for the hatching larvae (immature mosquitoes). Mosquitoes thrive in locations such as buckets, plant saucers, tarps, bird baths, tires and toys.
The first steps you should take to control mosquitoes on your property:
- Make sure all open windows have intact screens.
- Empty and dispose of any miscellaneous containers such as cans, buckets, appliances, tires, trash, etc.
- Check plastic tarps (like those that cover your boat, pool, grill, firewood, etc) for pockets of water that can harbor mosquito larva.
- Empty and overturn swimming pools and wading pools that are not being used or maintained.
- Remove all of the leaves and debris that build up in your gutter. This organic material can attract and harbor mosquitoes.
- Make sure rain barrels are fitted with a screen to keep out trash and prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs inside.
- Check downspout drain pipes to ensure that they aren’t holding stagnant water.
- Keep drainage ditches and culverts free of debris that can block water flow.
- Remove saucers from underneath flower pots. Your plants don’t need standing water under the pot (in fact, this promotes root rot and fungus gnats).
- Clean and rinse birdbaths frequently.
- Treat livestock water troughs with an appropriate product such as ‘Mosquito Dunks’.
Taking these steps will help reduce the number of mosquitoes that are able to survive to adulthood to pester you and your family but personal protection is still important. Protect yourself and family members when you are outdoors, especially during peak mosquito feeding times. If possible, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Then apply insect repellent to your clothing and/or exposed areas of your skin. I recommend that you use products registered by the EPA. DEET is the most commonly used repellent but other products are also available. Read and follow the label directions.
For more information about Zika and mosquitoes in North Carolina, check out this blogpost by Mike Waldvogel, NC State Extension Specialist.