Multitudes of Mosquitoes

July 2, 2015

Multitudes of Mosquitoes!

Once upon a time I saw a quote that stated, "Nothing was made in vain, but the mosquito came near it!" I talked about mosquitos back in May, when they first started to appear. That was before our  monsoon season. In May they were annoying. Now it seems like "herds" of mosquitos are attacking anything they can find. I've been trying to complete some projects outside in the evenings after work, and the closer to sundown, the more mosquitos that start to attack me.

Mosquitos are more than a nuisance, they can transmit diseases to humans and other animals. The problem we most commonly associate with mosquitos is West Nile Virus. This past week it has been in the news that the first case of a West Nile Virus infected mosquito has been confirmed in Nebraska. This disease has caused thousands of confirmed illnesses and over 50 deaths in Nebraska since 2002. There are probably many more cases that were not confirmed.

We will have to wait for Mother Nature to eliminate some mosquito breeding areas like water standing in fields or road ditches, but there are other areas we can control. Check for leaf-clogged gutters, rain pools, bird baths, old tires, cans, bottles and children's wading pools. Look for anything that might catch and hold water and drain it. Rinse the bird bath weekly and replace with fresh water.

Still water in birdbaths or ponds may be treated with Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, in the form of biscuits which are available at some garden and hardware stores. The sustained release of the active ingredients of these products may provide up to 30 days control of mosquito larvae. These products specifically attack mosquito larvae and will not harm fish or birds or wildlife that drink the water.

Check all doors, windows and window screens, making sure these are in good repair and tight. Screens should be 16-inch mesh or smaller to prevent mosquito entry into the home. Keep porch lights off as much as possible in the evening. Or, replace traditional white light bulbs with yellow ones to help reduce the attractiveness of your home to mosquitoes and other night-flying insects. But, because female mosquitoes are attracted to the carbon dioxide that we exhale, using an insect repellent while outdoors can be the most important method to prevent mosquito bites.

If working outdoors, wear long-sleeved shirts and full length trousers. Two layers of clothing are more difficult to penetrate by biting mosquitoes. Wearing light-colored clothes will reduce your attractiveness. If you do a lot of garden work, consider buying a mosquito net at a sporting goods store wear it over your hat or cap.

You may elect to use DEET repellents. These come under many brand names and many formulations including lotions, gels, aerosols, creams, sticks. Percentages of actual DEET may range from 5% to 95%. Skin applications, especially of the more concentrated materials, may cause problems for sensitive people, small children or the elderly. Apply more highly concentrated products to clothing rather than bare skin.  If you are concerned about DEET, try lotions that contain oil of citronella, a mild insect repellent.

Also, work outdoors when it is cooler, or when there is a brisk air movement or strong sunlight. Different species of mosquitoes have specific feeding periods, but many are very active in early evening hours, generally from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m.

For bug-free barbecuing, treat flower borders, smaller trees and shrubs around the patio with a fogger a couple of hours before your outdoor event. These are short-term insecticides that have repellent properties so you should not expect long-term control. Check the label to verify uses and plants to avoid possible plant sensitivity and injury.

You may have seen the article from the Elkhorn-Logan Valley Public Health Department in last week's newspaper. They gave me a limited supply of mosquito biscuits and mosquito wipes. The biscuits can be used in birdbaths or small landscape ponds to control mosquito larva and the wipes are like a moist towelette that contains an insect repellent. Both are available... free... at the Extension office while supplies last.

For more information on mosquito control, contact your local Nebraska Extension office.