It’s finally time to start venturing outdoors here in Wisconsin. Temperatures are starting to warm up and we can begin to enjoy all the outdoor activities we have put on hold since last fall. This means that we are dragging out our grills, entertaining on our patios and enjoying evening bonfires. What could ruin our excitement? Unfortunately, there is something, and it’s something so annoying that it threatens to completely kill your summertime vibe and maybe even you!
The summertime nuisance robbing us of our outdoors is the one and only mosquito. Their bites feel like a little pinch but they pack quite the punch. It’s not the itchy little bump that forms from a bite that should worry us, no. It is the cocktail of disease that they have the potential to spread. World wide, Mosquito-borne diseases kill more people than any other single factor. Mosquitoes can be carriers of malaria, yellow fever and dengue fever. In the United States, Mosquitoes spread several types of encephalitis. In addition, they can transmit heart worms to our cats and dogs!
There are over 170 described species of mosquitoes from North America. The average life span of a female mosquito is 3-100 days and the mail lives 10-20 days. They are an extremely prolific species. One female mosquito may lay 100-300 eggs at a time and may average 1,000-3,000 offspring during her life span. Mosquitoes breed in standing water. Areas like rain gutters, tree holes, old buckets or tires with stagnant water are breeding havens and they won’t travel far from home. Most mosquitoes remain within a one mile radius of their breeding site. So if they are breeding in your backyard, they are more than likely to track you down.
Mosquitoes locate you by scent, sight and heat. From 100 feet away mosquitoes can smell your scent, especially the carbon dioxide you exhale. Because CO2 is present in the atmosphere, they respond to higher than normal concentrations, especially when the CO2 is mixed with “host-odor”. They follow your scent upwind and can see you at a distance of about 30 ft.
So how do we attack this pesky insect head on and reclaim our yards for the summertime? Let’s list some options and take a look at their effectiveness.
Many people use them but they are not as effective as you may think. They kill beneficial insects, attract mosquitoes but don’t kill them, help mosquitoes find standing water to lay their eggs, and spray insect fragments into the air. The UV light from zappers attracts all night flying insects. Each night zappers kill about 3,000 beneficial insects such as moths and butterflies, which pollinate flowers, but only a handful of mosquitoes. A Notre Dame University study in South Bend Indiana showed that people with a zapper in their backyard got bit 10% more than people without one because zappers attracted mosquitoes but did not kill them. UV light also helps mosquitoes find water where they lay their eggs. When UV light is reflected off the surface of water it is polarized. Like polarized sunglasses that reduce glare and help you see objects more clearly, the mosquitoes follow the polarized light to the water to lay their eggs. Because they attract large bugs, they are purposefully designed to explode them so they don’t accumulate and become a fire hazard. This means that exploding bug fragments drift through the air. People and food nearby may be contaminated by insect fragments form the zapper. Gross!
Citronella Candles and smoking coils
Citronella candles and smoking coils repel mosquitoes, but you have to stay in the smoky plume to be protected. Citronella is an essential oil of citrus plants. The smoking coils contain pesticides. Dr. Robert Novak of the University of Illinois tested these products for ABC News. He reported that when smoke from a coil covered a human test subject’s shin, the mosquitoes flew around the subject’s leg and bit them on the calf!
Bug repellents containing DEET
While DEET can be very effective in repelling mosquitoes, the safety of using the chemical has been debated for years. The EPA conducted a safety review in 1998 and concluded that DEET doesn’t pose a health risk when used according to the application directions. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against using products containing DEET on infants younger than 2 months old and not exceeding a concentration of 30 percent DEET on children above that age. Even though DEET passes muster with the EPA, there’s plenty of consumer skepticism regarding its safety. After all, DEET can melt plastic and some fabrics, and some studies have shown high concentrations of the chemical to cause neurological damage in mice. It also has a strong chemical smell and needs to be washed off after returning indoors to prevent prolonged skin absorption.
In addition to the above listed options there are various others, some of which cost thousands of dollars and are usually hit or miss. A good starting point would be to eliminate breeding areas around your yard. Make sure that there is no standing water for mosquitoes to make home. Dump buckets, empty small swimming pools, cover fire pits and any other places you can spot. These little things can go a long way in combating mosquitoes. Beyond that, we recommend having your yard sprayed by a professional. Spraying is by far the most efficient way of addressing your mosquito problem. Best Choice Landscape, Inc. offers a top of the line mosquito control program. Ranging from applications that will last only 2-4 weeks to programs that will last all summer long. Contact us today for more questions regarding this program.