We’ve had some wet weather in eastern North Carolina this spring. Everyone knows that standing water means more potential mosquito breeding grounds, but we don’t always realize other things besides low spots also fill up with water. Old tires, bottles, cans, buckets, toys and anything else that holds water is a potential mosquito breeding haven. It’s a good idea to dump standing water in bird baths and plant drain trays every few days too. Don’t let those larvae develop.
Even backyard ornamental fountains with reflection pools can be breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Keeping fish in these pools can be an effective means of control. Encouraging predatory insects like dragonflies can be helpful too. Keeping swimming pool water treated is also important even if the pool is covered and not in use.
Eliminating breeding habitat is not 100% effective, but it’s a low cost safe way to cut down mosquito numbers, which reduces the amount of times we get bitten. Other insects and related arthropods can be a problem, but mosquitoes seem to be our number one foe.
Why do we need to be concerned about these blood sucking pests other than our own personal discomfort? Mosquitoes spread many serious diseases. They are the mechanism that our pets become infected with heartworms among other things.
Potential human problems such as the Zika virus encephalitis and West Nile virus are concerns too. Zika virus has been in the news a lot lately, likely because the Olympic Games will be played in Rio de Janeiro. This virus is of great concern in Brazil and it has affected thousands of people.
Simply removing most of the mosquitoes won’t save us or our pets from these problems. We need to treat our pets with heartworm preventative anyway. They will get bitten. If they don’t die of something else, heartworm has a good chance of killing them eventually if they remain untreated. Attacking adult heartworms is not always effective for a multitude of reasons. It’s certainly not the best option.
Protecting ourselves with insecticide is smart as is trying to lessen our exposure. Sealing cracks around doors and windows is also helpful. While there are many mosquito repellents on the market, those containing DEET are still considered to be most effective.
There are many devices people buy that claim to control mosquitoes. Several of these are somewhat effective, but somewhat still means you and your pets are going to get bitten. Wearing protective clothing and using products proven to repel these insects is just smart. The fewer times we get bitten the less chance we have of contracting a mosquito vectored disease.
This said, we can’t spend all of our lives indoors in hopes of avoiding mosquitoes. Even if we did they’d still get us. Doors don’t always remain closed and insects can enter buildings through small crevasses. We need not be foolish though.
Using repellents, wearing protective clothing and removing breeding habitat can go a long way toward reducing exposure. We can’t let ourselves get paranoid, for not every mosquito carries a deadly disease. We still must respect the little bloodsuckers though. They’re not very ladylike.
Ted Manzer teaches agriculture at Northeastern High School (firstname.lastname@example.org).