Mosquitoes – what are the options?

By May 21, 2018Uncategorized

It is mosquito season – what to do? Before you even call a commercial company for mosquito control to treat your yard consider some of these practices:

First and foremost, find and eliminate the mosquito breeding sites – this is highly effective in reducing the mosquito populations. Most mosquitoes breed in standing water, if it stands for at least 7 days. The adult mosquitoes lay their eggs on or near the standing water. The water can be in old flowers pots or saucers, gutters, tin cans, barrels, decorative ponds, puddles, creeks, ditches, catch basins, rain barrels, and marshes. The larvae develop in the water before they emerge as biting mosquitoes.

Most importantly, make sure there is no stagnant water in your outdoor spaces. Unblock all drains and gutters to maintain water flow. Turn over any pots, toys or garbage cans that are holding water. Empty all saucers and anything that is holding water. If you can’t drain it treat it.

If you are growing aquatic plants in containers or have standing water, the best way to prevent mosquito larvae is to use a product called Dunks (they look like little donuts) which are made from bacteria (Bacillus thuringensis israeliensis (Bti)) that kill mosquito larvae for up to 30 days and are harmless to birds, fish, wildlife, and pets.

Since mosquitoes do not like moving air, the use of fans if highly effective in keeping them away.  When there is a direct wind mosquitoes have a hard time flying around. Mosquitoes are able to find us due to our smell and the carbon dioxide that we breath so the moving air confuses them. The stronger the fan the better.

When sitting outside during mosquito season mosquito coils are often used, they are a coil of  anti-mosquito incense.  Their ingredient list is variable. Most contain either pyrethroid insecticides or plant derived substances such as citronella. Pyrethroid insecticides are synthetic chemical insecticides that have a chemical structure similar to pyrethrins that are derived from chrysanthemum flowers.  Mosquito coils are affordable, portable and generally effective at reducing mosquito bites. They are not recommended for indoor use.

A new product known as Mosquito traps are showing real possibility. They emit substances that the biting (female) mosquitoes love including carbon dioxide, heat, moisture and other byproducts. The female  mosquitos are attracted, trapped and then killed. Female mosquitoes need human blood to develop fertile eggs.

Bug zappers do not work against mosquitoes and are not recommended at all.  They use ultraviolet light to attract mosquitoes to the electrocuting grid. The problem is that these traps kill a huge number of beneficial insects and do not control the females of the biting species.

The safety of mosquito control programs is variable depending on the company’s knowledge and training of the employees, the chemicals used, and the services offered.  High quality companies are licensed and protect the non-target organisms such as bees, lady bugs, butterflies etc. Mosquito misting systems are not recommended because they have not been studied sufficiently and their effectiveness is not yet known.

First, find out what products will be used and know the active ingredients. If malathion (an organophosphate) is being used I would be concerned. Malathion can cause acute and long-term neurological health problems and is toxic to fish, aquatic invertebrates and amphibians. It is under review by the EPA as a low level carcinogen. Malathion is widely used to control adult mosquitoes although the World Health Organization has announced that it is “probably carcinogenic” to people.

Pyrethrins are botanical insecticides that come directly from chrysanthemum flowers and have been used as pesticides since the 1950’s. They have since been used as models to produce the synthetic, longer lasting chemicals called pyrethroids. One of those, Permethrin, is widely used for mosquito control. It is a neurotoxin and the EPA has classified it as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans” if ingested. Permethrin is highly toxic to bees, beneficial insects, and fish. According to the Washington DC based organization, Beyond Pesticides, “An increased risk of neurological disorders in areas where mosquito spraying is common has been reported.” To read more on this topic go to: https://www.beyondpesticides.org/assets/media/documents/pesticides/factsheets/permethrin.pdf

Mosquito control companies usually recommend that children and pets be kept inside during spraying, and for 30 minutes to an hour afterward.

After some extensive online searching and telephone calls to companies, many have addressed concerns regarding pesticides by creating less toxic alternatives. For example, Mosquito Joe’s offers garlic sprays to repel mosquitoes. It also offers an option with rosemary and peppermint oils that it says will eliminate mosquitoes on contact and becomes a repellent when dry. The smells will lessen after one or two hours.

Another company called Backyard Bug Control offers a Simply Organic Program Package that uses Rosemary Oil or Cedar Oil which is said to be effective although it does have a shorter shelf life.

For me, I have great success using theses options: elimination of standing water, fans, and occasional mosquito coils when sitting on the porch. When I work outside I wear long sleeves and slacks and apply my own anti-mosquito blend of lemon eucalyptus, rosemary, and cedar oils!

Who do Mosquitoes love the most?

Research is demonstrating that mosquitoes are attracted to people with blood type O, those people who exhale more carbon dioxide, warmer people who smell of lactic acid from their sweat glands, those with certain bacteria on their skin, people who drink beer, pregnant women, and those wearing black, dark blue or red clothing. Who knew…..