To Spray or Not to Spray for Mosquitoes?
A More Environmentally-Friendly Approach to Mosquito Control
The buzz, the bite, the itch – it would be so nice to enjoy our yards without the nuisance of mosquitoes!
The U.S. has around 200 mosquito species, and all require water to complete their life cycles. Female mosquitoes lay their eggs in stagnant water, where the larvae hatch and feed until they emerge as adults. Only female mosquitoes bite mammals for the necessary nutrients to produce eggs.
Try the following tips to help combat these pesky critters, while limiting harm to other beneficial bugs and wildlife.
Tip, toss, and cover
Mosquitoes must have a water source to lay their eggs: a bird bath, flowerpot saucer or forgotten bucket that filled with rain, half-buried sandbox, clogged gutters, open garbage or recycling containers, constant puddle under a dripping hose faucet, or tarp or pool cover with a constant wet patch are common examples. Even a capful of open water is ample for females to lay their eggs. Monitoring and eliminating potential breeding grounds from your property is the most effective and easiest way to reduce the number of mosquitoes in your yard.
Create a breeze
Box fans are a quick, easy, and effective solution. Set one up near the area where you’ll be spending the evening outdoors and run it on low. Not only will it blow the mosquitoes away because they are weak fliers, but it will also create a pleasant breeze during those hot summer nights.
Support natural predators
Mosquitoes are a source of food for other organisms. Embrace and support beneficial insects, birds, and bats by adding habitat opportunities for them, such as planting native flowers, shrubs and trees for local insects and birds, or installing a bat box.
Focus on the larva
The control of mosquito populations can take place during both the larval and adult stages; however, larviciding (controlling mosquitoes in their larval stage) is more effective, less expensive, and less harmful to other organisms. Most often an insecticide called Bti is applied to standing bodies of water. It is a widely available, EPA-approved insecticide which contains toxins produced by a bacterium that occurs naturally in our soils and has been shown to effectively target the larvae of mosquitoes, black flies, and fungus gnats but is not toxic to mammals, birds, or fish. As with any pesticide, it is paramount to follow the instructions on the label.
Understand the impacts
Controlling adult mosquitoes is more of a challenge since it requires the use of insecticides that are applied with foggers or sprayers and only kill the mosquitoes they come in direct contact with. The most widely used insecticides for this purpose are pyrethroids, which are broad-spectrum nerve agents. Unfortunately, pyrethroids are non-selective and are harmful to native pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, fish, and other aquatic organisms. In addition, pyrethroids don’t offer a long-term solution: they break down quickly in sunlight and are not effective after a few days. It is important to read the label before using any insecticide to understand how to protect yourself, your family and wildlife.
If using a professional mosquito control service, it might be useful to understand exactly what product they are using, how they apply it, and if they will apply it when the mosquitoes are active to weigh the benefits and disadvantages of using insecticides.
Since mosquitoes don’t respect property lines and fences it may be a good idea to speak with your neighbors and share this information. If you notice an unusually large number of mosquitoes, report it to the Bureau of Mosquito Control of Union County. They can provide guidance on eliminating breeding sites and if needed, survey the surrounding area.