Monday, May 14, 2012

Backyard Mosquito Management

”Why didn’t Noah swat those 2 mosquitoes?” ~ Author Unknown

So mosquito season is here again in the Lowcountry and it will most likely be a terrible one with the lack of cold weather this last winter. If your idea of Mosquito management is dousing yourself and your nearest and dearest in your favorite DEET product and then stepping out to enjoy a night under the stars or by swatting at the blood-suckers as they bite you during a 4th of July bar-b-que you may need to reevaluate your control practices.

Many communities have fogging/spray programs; this is an Adulticiding program. Adulticiding programs spray pesticides indiscriminately and do not get at the mosquitoes until they have matured and are already nibbling on your skin. They also do little to restrict breeding. Over time Mosquitoes develop resistance to chemical pesticides, which render the chemicals ineffective. Adulticides represent considerable risk to all living things, and kill beneficial insects and natural mosquito predators, such as dragonflies, damselflies, and beetles. According to entomologists from Cornell University, close to 99.9 percent of the sprayed chemicals end up in the environment where they can have damaging effects on public health and ecosystems, leaving only 0.10 percent to actually hit the targeted mosquitoes. This questions the efficacy of spray-based strategies against mosquitoes and you will still have a lot of the annoying insects in your yard. To best manage mosquitoes, you have to get rid of the situations that are attracting them to your property, when you detect them kill them before they breed; you need to kill them before they become adults. That’s called LARVACIDE!

So what do mosquito’s need to thrive in your yard? Why are they finding your backyard so attractive? They need suitable aquatic breeding habitats in order to complete their lifecycle (a.k.a they need water). Eggs must be laid on the surface of slow-moving or standing water.

Your first step in managing mosquitoes should be to remove any and all potential breeding areas – anyplace that water collects – from your yard. This will provide long-term control over mosquito populations and will also control populations before they mature and have a chance to reproduce, transfer disease, and just plain annoy.
If mosquitoes do breed, larvaciding allows control measures to be used in targeted areas, while mosquito larvae are still concentrated in breeding pools and before adult mosquitoes spread throughout the community.

Ideas for Personal Prevention
• Remain indoors in the evenings, when most mosquito activity occurs.
• Use screened-in porches instead of open porches.
• Use herbal repellents to ward off mosquitoes, such as Skin-So-Soft. Reapply often. Herbs that repel mosquitoes include cedar wood, garlic, lemongrass, frankincense, cinnamon, geranium, eucalyptus, basil, rosemary, cloves, peppermint, lemon balm (citronella), onions, feverfew, thyme, and marigold.
• Essential oils of the herbs listed above are also good repellents, though most are volatile organic compounds and will bother someone who is sensitive to scents. To mix your own essential oil repellent, add 10 drops of essential oil to 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, stir, and dab a few drops on your skin or clothing. Pregnant women should consult their doctors before using essential oils.
• Neem oil is used as a mosquito repellent cream and composed of 2% crude neem oil is a highly effective repellent.
• When you are outdoors burn citronella candles and torches to control mosquitoes in the immediate vicinity when there is no wind.

Here are some hints for Household Prevention and control
• Maintain window screens and doors, closing all opened doors.
• Remove or regularly drain all water-retaining objects, such as tin cans, pet dishes, buckets, holes in trees, clogged gutters and down spouts, old tires, birdbaths, trash can lids, and shallow fishless ponds. Check ponds and sources of water for signs of mosquito larvae and stock permanent water pools, such as ornamental ponds, with mosquito larvae eating fish.
• Check for standing water in plastic or canvas tarps used to cover pools and boats. Arrange tarps to drain water and turn canoes and small boats upside down for storage.
• Use Mosquito Dunks™ (made from Bacillus thuringiensis var. israelensis) one of the most popular and most effective least-toxic biological controls. The dunks are safe for birdbaths, rain barrels, ponds, ditches, tree holes, roof gutters, unused swimming pools — anywhere water collect.
• Fix dripping outside water faucets.
• Keep street gutters and catch basins and rain barrels free of debris and working properly.

Even if you put the above ideas for control into practice you will still need to monitor mosquito activity in your yard. Check for standing water after rain showers, and change birdbath water often to keep mosquitoes from using them to breed. Hopefully these practices will lead to a more enjoyable summer season.

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