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Controlling mosquitoes

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By Dennis Morgeson

With the rain we have had of late and some of you have had a lot more than others, there are bound to be many of you out there suffering from mosquitoes. I remember the good old days when mosquitoes only came out to bite at dusk? The imported tiger mosquito likes to bite any time of day and the hotter the better. Guess where the tiger mosquito was imported from. You guessed it, China! Tiger mosquitoes have light silvery stripes on their legs and body, hence the name “Tiger”.

Control of mosquitoes can be very difficult, especially since there are so many places for them to breed. Any water holding container left outside can make a small mosquito problem turn into a full on plague. Most commonly stopped up gutters, old tires, aluminum cans, flower pot saucers, and even dense shady gardens with lots of moist soil and leaf tissue can become a breeding ground for hundreds to thousands of mosquitoes. Did you know that only female mosquitoes bite?

Did you know that the blood they take from you is used to nourish eggs so that they can develop into wigglers and become adults to bite you again? Did you know that adult mosquitoes don’t use the blood they take from you as food for themselves, but they live on flower nectar as their primary food source? I thought these were interesting tidbits of information but the one thing most of you want to know is how to get rid of them, right? Well, that is going to be difficult.

First of all, to control mosquitoes you have to get rid of breeding sites. You need to get rid of any old tires, cans or trash, water bowls, plastic containers, plastic sheeting, saucers under flower pots, turn over all buckets, wading pools, wheelbarrows, etc. and be sure to change the water in bird baths regularly. Check your gutters to make sure they aren’t holding water as well. Check around outdoor faucets, air conditioners, drainage ditches, cisterns, cess pools, and septic tanks to make sure no water is standing. Eliminate all puddles and be sure to make changes that future water accumulations will not occur. Now, you have to do this and so do all of your neighbors.

So, can you see how hard it is to control these pests? It’s funny, on all the television shows they show people getting bitten by mosquitoes when they go out into the country. In all reality if you want to reduce the chance of getting bitten nowadays, you go to the country! There are far less breeding sights in nature than are in residential areas.

If you have a water garden or pond be sure to stock it with fish. They will eat the mosquito larva, which is a very nutritious meal for them and will keep you from being mosquito food. Don’t water gardens very often. Very wet soil and leaves can even act as breeding areas as well as safe havens for adults waiting for their next meal. Mosquitoes are attracted to body heat, dark colors and carbon dioxide. So, wear light colors, stay cool, and don’t breathe….joking! Really the only way to stop the attacks is to control the mosquito with insecticides, reducing breeding sites and to use repellents.

If you have areas that stay wet and you can’t induce drainage, then there are larvacides out there to kill mosquito larva. These products contain Bacillus thuringeiensis israeliensis or Bt. Bt is a natural bacterium that invades the larva and kills them. This particular strain only kills mosquito larva and doesn’t cause harm to us or other living organisms. It is very similar to other Bt strains that are specific to caterpillars and the Colorado potato beetle. Bt is generally the active ingredient in those mosquito dunks you can purchase at the big box stores to put in birdbaths and gutters. There are also other insecticides out there that can be applied as granules, pellets and briquettes that are applied to water sources. Foggers can apply insecticides to infiltrate dense vegetative areas around the home to kill adults, but new ones emerge daily. Keep in mind to read and follow all labels on any insecticides.

There are also traps out there that use carbon dioxide to trap adults, but they also lure many to your land and you have to keep it up air stream from your target protection point. That is hard to do when the air stream changes daily, if not hourly in Kentucky. The specialists say they trap a lot of mosquitoes but like the Japanese beetle traps your neighbor may get more benefit from it than you do.
Lastly, repellents, this has been my standby for personal protection. You spray any exposed skin with a product that contains Deet. Deet keeps mosquitoes, chiggers, and ticks OFF as well. There are also other sprays that contain chemical and natural repellents, as well as citronella candles, and little belt clips with repellents, but personally the products that contain the highest percentage of Deet works the best.

As a reminder, I wanted to let you know that this Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013 the Farmers Market at the Depot Jamboree is from 8 a.m. until noon. There will be all the great products for sale as well as a Homemaker Bake Sale and music! 

Happy Gardening.