Fighting Mosquitoes

The recent long and rainy spring may have created the perfect recipe for mosquitoes this summer.  Mosquitoes thrive where there is standing water; in fact, bodies of water with little to no flow are essential for mosquitoes to reproduce, according to the CDC (Cdc.gov/mosquitoes). 

Mosquitoes do not drink blood as food to survive, but for reproduction, which is why only female mosquitoes are able to bite.  After biting an animal or human, a female mosquito will search for a body of water that is suitable for laying eggs.  Even though it seems like they never go away, adult mosquitoes live for only  2-4 weeks, so they have to reproduce quickly in order to keep their numbers up.  Their short lifespans may explain what seems to be their annual feeding frenzies.  Eggs can survive for up to 8 months of drying out before hatching. Once it is exposed to water, the egg will begin to hatch.  From hatching it only takes 7-10 days for the larva to develop into an adult mosquito, at which point it will leave the water and begin breeding.  The mosquito’s short life cycle is a nuisance for humans, but they do provide a valuable food source for many animals including: birds, bats, fish, turtles, lizards, spiders, dragonflies, and frogs.

Even though they do offer a tasty meal for some animals, they can wreak havoc around your home and summer bbqs.  So how can you win the battle against mosquitoes?  

Yard Maintenance and Chemical Options

The first step is to remove their ability to reproduce.  The CDC recommends that, “Once a week, empty and scrub, turn over, cover, or throw out any items that hold water like tires, buckets, planters, toys, pools, birdbaths, flower pot saucers, or trash containers. Mosquitoes lay eggs near water.” Larvicide “donuts” can be placed in bodies of water that cannot be removed and will not be used for drinking water (decorative ponds/fountains).  If you are still fighting with mosquitoes after treating water around the house, you can “Use an outdoor adulticide to kill adult mosquitoes in areas where they rest. Mosquitoes rest in dark, humid areas like under patio furniture or under the carport or garage. When using insecticides, always follow label instructions.”

Natural Predators

If you want to avoid using chemicals, or your efforts just haven’t quite paid off, you can try partnering with natural predators of mosquitoes for help with the battle.  Bats are one of the most efficient predators of adult mosquitoes. On their website, the National Wildlife Federation points out that, “one little brown bat can eat 60 medium-sized moths or over 1,000 mosquito-sized insects in one night!”  Visit Nwf.org/Garden-For-Wildlife/Cover/Build-a-Bat-House.aspx for more information on bats, along with instructions for a DIY bat house, complete with photos for clarity. The box will provide shelter and a nesting location for bats.  Fish are another mosquito predator, and they are especially handy to have around if you have a pond that is attracting bugs.  Many traditional pond stock like goldfish serve a dual purpose: they will eat adult mosquitoes at the surface of the water, and they will also eat the eggs and larvae in the water.  One fish, gambusia affinis, is so efficient at eating mosquitoes that it has been dubbed the “mosquitofish.” In their article about mosquito control (Thespruce.com/natural-mosquito-control-2131142), The Spruce notes that, “this fish is, however, an invasive species, so do not release any into the wild. Use them in small, contained water features only.”  You can also work with your local nursery or florist to design a garden filled with native plants.  Native gardens encourage and support native wildlife, like lizards, frogs, dragonflies, spiders, and birds,  all of which can be great helpers in your mission to control the mosquito population around your home and/or property.

Protect Yourself

Personal protection is also important to keep in mind.  Fortunately, of the 200 different mosquito types living in the US, only 12 types are able spread disease.  Unfortunately, you cannot tell which type of mosquito is biting you and your family. So it is a good idea to take extra measures to prevent bites by: using EPA registered repellents, wearing long sleeves and pants, and covering baby strollers with netting.  

A few quick preventative steps around your home and each time you go outside during mosquito season can make your summer outings more comfortable and enjoyable.

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