Many argue that the mosquito is the most deadly animal on earth. I’d go along with that. One of my dear friends died of Malaria and another flipped a car when she went to swat one on her leg. Luckily, she walked away…and didn’t get bit. In addition, I just spent some of my hard-earned money on a vaccination for my horse to guard against the mosquito-transmitted West Nile Virus.
I grew up in Maine, where the mosquito is the state bird. Luckily, my skin doesn’t react to their bites, but I have many friends who plan their time outside to avoid the itchy welts. This pest is part of our culture. It even took center stage at last week’s Cornell Fashion Show when a designer and scientist paired-up to create a design that protects the wearer against mosquitoes!
Attracted by our heat and breath (just like bed bugs and many other blood-sucking pests), mosquito moms are great at finding us. Males spend their time courting the ladies and sipping nectar (not us). We’re not entirely sure what makes some people more attractive to the bloodthirsty females than others—studies continue to look at everything from lactic acid to dirty socks.
The key to battling this pest is to get the babies—before they grow up and can bite. Mosquitoes are flies. As such, they have four life stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The early life stages happen in and around water. Mosquitoes can breed in water that stands still for more than 4 days. Once the adults take flight, anyone’s game.
IPM for mosquitoes is a lot of simple steps that, when put together, takes the water and shelter away from this pest. In your communities, do the following:
- Drill drain holes in, turn over, or get rid of old tires, wheelbarrows, buckets, toys and other objects that catch water
- After a rainstorm, empty water from cargo trailers, tarps, truck beds, trashcan lids, recycling bins, plant pots and other water-catching objects
- Tightly cover rain barrels
- Fill tree holes with sand or cement or drill holes to allow drainage
- Clear aquatic vegetation from around the edges of ponds to allow fish to feed on mosquito larvae and pupae
- Organize your community to clean up mosquito breeding areas. Neighborhood clean up days can be organized through civic or youth organizations.
If you have areas with standing water, ask your pest control operator about Bti, a naturally occurring bacteria, to kill mosquito larvae. Bti comes in small, donut-shaped form, often called "mosquito dunks", which are useful in small areas of standing water. Granular Bti is also available, and effective for larger areas, such as ponds. NPIC has lots of information on mosquito control.
If you live in an area with agriculture, check out Cornell’s Veterinary Entomology website for their recommendations for pest control on farms. (Vet. Ent. Is where I got my start with bugs!)
Check with your local health department and see if they have any brochures you can give to residents. At the very least, put the following in your newsletter...
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“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” ~Dalai Lama
- Drill drain holes in, turn over, or get rid of old tires, buckets, toys and other objects that catch water
- After a rainstorm, empty water from trashcan lids, recycling bins, plant pots and other water-catching objects
- Change water in birdbaths at least once a week
- If there is a constant pool of water, ask housing to get a mosquito dunk. It kills young mosquitoes, without harming us.
Keep the blood suckers out of your house. Keep screens on windows and doors. If one gets in, use a fly swatter.
Going outside? Wear light colored clothes that cover as much skin as possible. Avoid times of day when mosquitoes are out. Use this phone app to find an insect repellent: Npic.orst.edu/myrepel. Before using a repellent or insecticide, be sure you thoroughly read and understand all directions and cautions written on the label, especially if you are using it on a child, pregnant woman or elderly person.
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