What's All the Buzz about Mosquitoes?
What can you do?
Culex pipiens, the most common mosquito around the home and around the world, is the primary carrier of encephalitis viruses. It has a very small home range and usually does not fly more than 300 feet from a breeding site. Because this mosquito breeds in small pools of standing water containing leaves or other debris, backyards can be the perfect habitat! Rain gutters, cups, cans, and birdbaths are "home, sweet home." When given a breeding site, mosquitoes will stay in the area. To reduce Culex mosquito populations and the need for pesticides, you must regularly inspect your surroundings for potential breeding areas and disrupt these sites.
Ways to "fight the bite"
Before you even consider spraying insecticides over your entire yard, take a preventative approach. Insecticides should be a last resort.
Prevent mosquito breeding
- Dump out standing water from containers in the yard, including recycling bins with bottle caps and cans, tires, boats, and tarps.
- Clean debris from rain gutters early in spring and check them regularly. If you are unable to clean them, ask your landscaper or pest control technician. A huge number of mosquitoes can result from clogged gutters.
- Clean, filter, and treat pools. Empty children's pools and turn them over when not in use. Keep pool covers clean by propping them up to drain water.
- Encourage natural enemies. For example, stock ornamental ponds with goldfish. Mosquito fish (a type of minnow, also known as Gambusia) devour mosquito larvae. Dragonflies and damselflies are mosquito predators.
- Construct goldfish ponds properly. Large goldfish are unable to reach sloping edges of ponds where mosquitoes breed, so be sure your pond has vertical sides. A pond fountain will also reduce mosquito breeding.
- Change the water in birdbaths and fountains twice a week.
Sides of goldfish ponds should be steep (top). Gradual, sloping sides provide places for mosquitoes to breed that large goldfish cannot reach (bottom).
Protect yourself against Culex mosquitoes
- Cover up with loose-fitting, lightweight clothing from dusk to dawn.
- Use insect repellents properly, especially on children (never on their skin). Read the label and follow precautions.
- Keep household screens in good repair and do not prop open windows or doors.
- Attend public forums and educate yourself.
- Remember that electric insect "zappers" do not help to prevent mosquito problems. These devices generally kill more beneficial insects than pests.
- Recognize that light traps and carbon dioxide traps used by mosquito control programs are for monitoring purposes and cannot be used to reduce mosquito numbers.
These steps will help protect you from mosquitoes, disease, and risks associated with pesticides. With greater public participation (i.e., you!), mosquito numbers can be reduced.