Controlling Mosquitoes

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I think we all know mosquitoes as the annoying insects that can quickly take the fun out of being outside on a summer evening. Mosquitoes are known for biting and the potential they have for transmitting diseases like West Nile Virus.

As when controlling any insect, it is important to understand the insect’s life cycle to determine when control measures will be the most effective. A key fact about a mosquito’s life cycle is they need water to breed and complete their life cycle. Pesticides can provide a temporary solution but eliminating potential breeding sites will provide a more long-term solution.

Since mosquitoes need water to breed, the first step will be to reduce the amount of standing water around your landscape. The ideal breeding sites include areas that are undisturbed or contain stagnant water. These areas could include birdbaths, boats, discarded tires, saucers under flower pots, and buckets.

To reduce mosquito population in your landscape, consider taking these steps:

  • Routinely empty or remove containers that can hold stagnating water.
  • Dump excess water from saucers under outdoor flower pots.
  • Flush water out of bird baths at least twice a week.
  • Correct drainage problems in your yard where rainwater gathers in low-lying areas.
  • Keep rain gutters free of leaves and other debris that prevent water from draining.
  • Cover or drain unused swimming pools.
  • Store boats and other objects so they do not collect rainwater. Remember to remove water that collects in depressions on tarp coverings.
  • Cover rain barrels with screening to keep out debris and mosquitoes. Keep the screens clear of debris as well.

Insecticides and foggers that are available to control mosquitoes can be difficult for homeowners to apply and expensive. These chemicals will only provide temporary control and can end up being harmful to beneficial insects in the landscape. This is why a homeowner’s best defense to mosquitoes is to eliminate or modify breeding sites as mentioned above. There are several “dunk” or “donut” granular products for mosquito control. These products usually contain Bti or Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis which is a bacteria that kills mosquitoes but will not harm fish, birds, or other wildlife. These “dunks” are best for treating small breeding sites like birdbaths and garden pools.

For personal protection from mosquitoes, there are a wide variety of insect repellents available. One would want to look for products containing DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide). Candles containing citronella oil are available to use for outdoor gathering areas. These products work best when there is little air movement to prevent the chemical from dispersing too quickly.

There are many other products advertised for mosquito control, such as bug zappers, traps, and plants that repel mosquitoes. These products often have mixed reviews and little to no scientifically-based results showing they are effective.

I don’t think anyone will disagree that mosquitoes are a pest we find as a summertime nuisance. By locating and eliminating potential breeding sites in the landscape, one can help reduce mosquito populations.

Got gardening questions? We can help! Contact the Master Gardener℠ volunteer plant clinic at N.C. Cooperative Extension – Wayne County Center on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. One can reach the Master Gardener℠ volunteer plant clinic at N.C. Cooperative Extension – Wayne County Center by phone at 919-731-1433, e-mail at Master.Gardener@waynegov.com, or stopping by the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Wayne County Center Office at The Maxwell Regional Agricultural & Convention Center (3114B Wayne Memorial Drive, Goldsboro).

Recommendations for the use of agricultural chemicals are included in this article as a convenience to the reader. The use of brand names and any mention or listing of commercial products or services in this article does not imply endorsement by North Carolina Cooperative Extension nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned. Individuals who use agricultural chemicals are responsible for ensuring that the intended use complies with current regulations and conforms to the product label. Be sure to obtain current information about usage regulations and examine a current product label before applying any chemical.

Jessica Strickland is an Agriculture Extension Agent, specializing in horticulture for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Wayne County.

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