Sunday, July 13, 2003
July 2003 began in a similar pattern to July 2002 with a rainy onslaught and provided the South Texas area with much needed rainfall. While the benefits of the rainfall are numerous, let us not forget that the local insect fauna such as fire ants and mosquitoes are enjoying the moisture as well.
One can’t think of rain without thinking of the hoards of blood thirsty mosquitoes that appear a few days after. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in watery tree holes, puddles, containers, tires and any other site that could hold water for 7 to 10 days. The eggs hatch into larvae that feed on algae and other microscopic plants. After 2 to 3 days, the wigglers develop into a pupal stage that wiggles as well. In another 2 to 3 days, an adult mosquito emerges, ready to take on the world. Adult male mosquitoes feed on nectar from plants and do not feed on blood. The females feed on blood from animals, people and birds.
There are many species of mosquitoes that call South Texas home, but the most common is the Asian Tiger Mosquito (Aedes albopictus). This species is an aggressive biter and likes to harbor in ground cover, shrubbery and in flowerbeds. With all of this in mind, there’s still the hotbed question, “What can I do to control mosquitoes around my home?” Adult mosquitoes can fly up to 2 or 3 miles from their breeding sites, so controlling adults in the lawn may not last longer than a couple of days. However, treating the places they hide during the day will provide relief. Adult mosquitoes need high humidity and locations with ivy, groundcover, shrubbery or hedges fit the bill. There are a wide variety of non-mix products that can be attached to a water hose and sprayed on these locations.
Overall, products containing permethrin, malathion or pyrethrins are the best bets for controlling adult mosquitoes. Mosquitoes develop in standing water from tires, unused swimming pools, water gardens, flower pot saucers, pet dishes, tree holes, puddles, clogged rain gutters and other standing water sources. Refresh your pet’s water dish daily with clean water. Be sure to dump out standing water where possible and use a larvicide such as Mosquito Dunks to control wigglers in water gardens, ponds and other areas. They are non-toxic to fish or animals that would live in or drink the water. Dunks will control wigglers for up to 30 days. Dunks are available at nurseries, feed stores, hardware stores and large retailers such as Home Depot or Lowe’s. Mosquito repellants will provide a measure of relief against mosquito attacks while outdoors. In a recent study published by the New England Journal of Medicine, DEET-containing repellant Deep Woods Off! provided 301 minutes of continuous protection before wearing off while Sawyer Controlled Release , another DEET-containing product, provided 234 minutes of repellency. A popular non-DEET repellant, Avon’s Skin-So-Soft Plus, provided just 23 minutes of relief before bites occurred.
The most important factors for reducing the potential for mosquito bites are dumping out standing water where possible, wearing repellants when outdoors at dawn or dusk and treating areas where adult mosquitoes harbor during the day. Following these suggestions will make your outdoor experiences more enjoyable and will reduce your chances of being a mosquito blood donor!