Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mosquitoes Around the Home

        I have a love/hate relationship with the red imported fire ant.  I am mesmerized at their aggressiveness when their mounds are disturbed.  I am amazed about how quickly they can build a mound and move the mound when aggravated, but, I am profoundly annoyed when stung.

Red Imported Fire Ant.  Image by M. Yoder

        When I think about the mosquito, only hate is there.  I hate the mosquito.  Here is a good reason to keep on hating this insect.  Over the past few weeks West Nile Virus (WNV) activity has increased throughout the State of Texas.  The mayor of Dallas has declared a state of emergency for the city to combat the spread of West Nile virus infections.  The emergency declaration by Mayor Mike Rawlings and other actions by Dallas County officials paved the way for aerial spraying to begin this week in Dallas.
        Dr. Mike Merchant, Professor and Extension Urban Entomologist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service wrote on this WNV event in the Dallas area  on his citybugs blog posted last week.  I suggest you visit his blog for his “several relatively inexpensive steps anyone can take to reduce mosquito risks around the home.”
        We in the Houston Metro area area are not immune from an outbreak such as this and should take steps to reduce mosquito populations around our homes.  Here is a map showing the WNV cases in the state as of 8/13/12.  This map was located by Dr. Sonja Swiger, Assist. Prof. & Ext. Entomologist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, Stephenville, TX.   As  can be seen, most are occurring in the Dallas metroplex, but these numbers could shift so we need to be vigilent.  Thanks to Dr. Swinger for sending this map. 

WNV cases in the state of Texas as of 8/13/12

        Remember it is just not one action that will reduce mosquito levels around the house but the accumulation of many actions.  The more actions we can take to disrupt the life cycle of the mosquito, the less chance we will be bitten by one, which reduces the chance of us being exposed to one of the mosquito borne diseases.
        To benefit the readers of this posting I am reprinting from a March 2003 publication "Mosquito Control Aoround the Home" by J. A. Jackman (deceased), Professor and Extension Entomologist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, and  J. K. Olson Professor of Entomology, Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Department of Entomology, their suggestions for “how to reduce mosquito problems” around the home.  I added a few comments in parenthesis.  These actions are extremely effective and should be implemented to successfully combat mosquitoes throughout the year.

 Eliminate breeding sites for larvae
  • Reduce standing water that provides breeding sites. Eliminate containers such as old tires, buckets, cans and bottles that collect and hold rainwater and become good breeding sites for mosquitoes. (Turn them over if possible when not in use.) Drain water from flower pots, bird baths, rain gutters, rain barrels, pet dishes, livestock watering troughs, etc. at least once a week.
  • Empty your plastic wading pool weekly and store it indoors when not in use.
  • Fill holes or depressions in trees with sand or mortar, or drain them after each rain by drilling holes into the tree. (With the drought in our area last year many branches/limbs broke leaving gaps in tree trunks and many trees have been cut down leaving stumps that may have holes that can collect water and be a breeding habitat for the mosquito.  Also fill up depressions in your lawn with sand.)
  • Repair leaky pipes and outside faucets.
.Reduce adult mosquito populations
  • Mow tall grass or reduce the amount of brush and other foliage in your area to reduce the resting sites for adult mosquitoes.
  • For temporary relief in yards or high traffic areas, use fog treatments or surface treatments of insecticides that are labeled for that use and apply them following directions on the product label. (Adult mosquitoes like to hide in cool places during the day and the lawn and landscape areas are an ideal place for this.)
Avoid contact with mosquitoes
  • Use screening in your homes and pet kennels. Keep the screens in good repair and be sure that they seal around the frames of the door or window.
  • Schedule outdoor activities during times when mosquitoes are not active. Mosquito species that are active at dusk and dawn can often be avoided. Species that bite throughout the day are more difficult to avoid
  • Wear long, loose-fitting clothing to avoid mosquito bites. Use head nets when mosquitoes are very abundant.
  • Use repellents whenever in a mosquito infested location. Products that contain DEET have been shown to be the most reliable repellents.
  • For short-term relief in outdoor areas such as patios and picnic areas, use citronella candles or punks as a deterrent.  (Place the candles or punks in a circle around the area to be protected)
  • Protect your pets with drugs that eliminate heartworm..
 Treat larval breeding sites
  • Use Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (also known as "Bt") products such as Mosquito Dunks® to treat permanent water bodies to eliminate larvae.
  • You can use oil treatments on the surface of standing water to kill larvae. Use commercial products according to the instructions on the product label. Be aware that other organisms in the water body may be affected by the treatment.
         If you are interested in thoughts on many of the “mosquito control gimmicks” here is a good article that gives insight into many of them: Many Mosquito Controls Only Hammer Buyer's Pocketbook
        Another great joint publication on "Integrated Mosquito Management" authored by several agencies in the states of Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Arkansas can be found here: The Best Way to Control Mosquitoes.
        One last publication you may want to review can be found here:
        For a more on the mosquito life cycle here are a couple of interesting videos for your viewing pleasure:

   Mosquito laying eggs, eggs hatching

and here:

The Mosquito Life Cycle

1 comment:

  1. I could never have a form of love hate relationship with an ants. I have the hate part. But that doesn't count much. It started when one of them bit me and really messed up my skin for a few summers.

    -Carlos Hernandez
    Tree Pruning Brooklyn