With our spring rains and warm temperatures, mosquitoes are becoming more and more prevalent. While doing your spring cleanup activities, be sure to look for mosquito breeding sites in your yard. The first step to fighting mosquitoes must begin in your backyard.
There are three main types of mosquitoes, which can be grouped together by their life cycles. The first group is the permanent pool mosquitoes. These mosquitoes reproduce in relatively small numbers in permanent bodies of water such as lakes and ponds.
The second group is the floodwater mosquitoes. These mosquitoes lay their eggs on low-lying dry soil. When these areas flood, eggs will hatch. The eggs of these mosquitoes are rather resilient, and can survive for more than two years while waiting for proper conditions to hatch.
The third group is the container breeding mosquitoes that prefer stagnant water and become more numerous during the summer when rainfall is minimal. The northern house mosquito, Culex pipiens, the main vector of West Nile virus and St. Louis encephalitis, and the Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, a potential vector for Zika virus, are in this group.
Neither the northern house mosquito nor the Asian tiger mosquito travel very far, typically no more than half a mile. Because of this, household and neighborhood mosquito reduction efforts can greatly reduce their populations. After getting an adequate blood meal, adult female mosquitoes will lay eggs in any stagnant water source. The eggs and larvae must have water to live. Therefore, removal of as many water sources as possible from yards and communities will help to reduce populations.
It is important to note that these mosquitoes can develop in as little as one cup of water. There are several things you can do to help eliminate breeding sites:
- Make sure to clean out gutters so they don’t clog.
- Replace water in birdbaths and wading pools weekly.
- If you have drip trays under potted plants, make sure to empty them frequently, as well.
- If you have an ornamental/garden pond, stock it with minnows or other surface feeding fish that will eat mosquito larvae (unfortunately koi won’t help, they’re vegetarians).
- If you don’t want to use fish, or only have koi in your pond, you can treat with BTi (Bacillus thuringiensis israeliensis), which is available as donuts, briquettes or granules, and can provide larval control for a month or more.
- If you have a swimming pool, make sure it is cleaned and chlorinated.
- Also, make sure to get rid of, or put drainage holes in, old tires, tin cans, abandoned cars and ceramic pots.
Basically anything that is capable of holding water needs to be emptied frequently and regularly; it takes mosquito larvae 5-7 days to develop into adults. Also, make sure window screens don’t have holes in them; this will help keep mosquitoes out of your home.
In addition to eliminating breeding sites, protect yourself while outdoors by applying mosquito repellents containing DEET, picaridin or lemongrass oil as the label directs. Mosquitoes can also bite through thin clothing so you may need to apply repellents to your clothing, as well.