by Melinda Myers
Don’t let the buzz of mosquitoes keep you indoors. Most mosquitoes are a nuisance, causing rashes and itching but some species can transmit diseases that can make you sick. Understanding how they breed and spread disease can help you gain the upper hand in the battle against these pesky insects.
Mosquitoes serve as a carrier (vector) in the spread of certain diseases. It starts when they feed on an animal infected with heartworms or an animal or person with West Nile, Saint Louis Encephalitis, Zika or other mosquito-vectored disease. The young heartworm or virus is taken in with the mosquito’s blood meal. The heartworm larvae or virus is then transmitted to other organisms when the mosquito feeds on them.
Always take precautions when traveling to other regions. Find out about the health risks of the area and come prepared. Consult with your doctor and be sure to pack repellent and the appropriate clothing.
At home, start by eliminating mosquito breeding grounds. These insects need standing water to reproduce. The larvae hatch and feed on tiny organisms in the water. Once they morph into adults, they leave the water and look for animals and people to dine upon.
Get rid of any standing water to eliminate breeding grounds in your landscape. Clean clogged gutters where water can collect and mosquitoes can breed. Empty water that collects in any items left outside. Change the water in your birdbath at least once a week or anytime you water your container gardens.
Toss an organic mosquito control, like Mosquito Dunks and Mosquito Bits (SummitResponsibleSolutions.com), into your rain barrel, pond or other water feature. Mosquito Bits quickly knock down the mosquito larval population, while Mosquito Dunks provide 30 days of mosquito control. The active ingredient is Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, a naturally occurring soil bacterium that kills the mosquito larvae but is safe for children, fish, pets, beneficial insects and wildlife.
Invite the songbirds into your backyard with birdhouses, birdbaths and feeders. Most of them feed on insects, including mosquitoes and garden pests, while adding color, motion and beauty to your landscape.
Keep the garden weeded. Mosquitoes rest in shrubs, trees and weeds during the day. Removing weeds and managing neglected garden spaces will make your landscape less inviting to these pests.
Further protect yourself by wearing light colored clothing, long sleeves and long pants when enjoying the outdoors. Apply EPA-approved repellents as directed on the label.
Use a fan when sitting on the porch or even working in the garden. The gentle breeze helps keep the weak-flying mosquitoes away.
Then add a bit of ambience to your next party by lighting a few citronella candles. Citronella oil and the scented candles do have some mosquito-repelling properties. Scatter lots of candles throughout the party and within a few feet of your guests for some short-term relief.
And be sure to keep mosquitoes out of your house. Repair windows and screens that may be providing easy access into your home.
Taking a few precautions will help you manage these pests so you can enjoy the outdoor summer activities you love.
Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the nationally-syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio program. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned by Summit for her expertise to write this article. Myers’s web site is www.melindamyers.com.
Photo cutline: Mosquitoes serve as a carrier in the spread of certain diseases, including West Nile, Saint Louis Encephalitis, Zika and other mosquito-vectored diseases.
Photo credit: photo courtesy of James Gathany CDC