These pesky insects are more than just annoying, they can be hazardous to your health.
West Nile Virus, Dengue Fever, Malaria, Yellow Fever, Encephalitis, and Zika make quite a list of reasons not to like the mosquito, not to mention the itching and inflammation caused by their bites. Though your chances of contracting Malaria in the United States are minimal, other mosquito-borne diseases are indeed a threat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported nearly 4,000 confirmed cases of Dengue Fever in the country between 1995 and 2005, plus 2,060 confirmed cases in 2015 of West Nile Virus—the leading cause of arboviral encephalitis. If that’s not it’s enough to make you want to run for the spray can, consider this: The CDC reports that as of May 12, 2016, 591 travel-related cases of Zika have reported in the U.S., with 11 being sexually transmitted infections—of the 591 cases, 157 were pregnant women. The CDC also goes on to suggest that the two types of mosquitoes most likely to carry Zika have the range to appear in 32 states and Washington D.C. But an adequate understanding of these little critters can lead to safer and more effective methods of control.
Mosquitoes are not one of the Top 10 Garden Insect Pests, but rather a pest of the gardener. So before you start working on your vegetable garden this summer, find out Why Some People Get Eaten By Mosquitoes More Than Others. More than 150 species of mosquito may call your North American backyard home and all are true flies, spending most of their time feeding on plant nectar. Only the females supplement this diet with the blood of animals or birds, which provides the protein necessary for egg maturation. Adult females lay eggs on the surface of stagnant water and 4 to 14 days later, the eggs hatch into wriggling larvae that begin to feed on water-dwelling microorganisms including fungi, bacteria, and algae. The larvae then pass through several life stages, called instars, before pupating into adults. Depending on the species, adults can live from a few weeks to several months.
Controlling mosquitoes starts with getting rid of standing water by regularly emptying and cleaning birdbaths, draining pot saucers, and clearing clogged gutters. Stock ponds with larvae-gobbling fish and set up a pump to provide constant circulation. Treat water barrels and smaller water features monthly with Mosquito Dunks, floating donut-shaped cakes containing the organic larvicide BTI (Bacillus thuringiensis var. israelensis). Hang a bat house as each adult can eat several hundred mosquitoes every night; put up birdhouses for chickadees, wrens, purple martins, and other insectivorous species; and encourage frogs, toads, and dragonflies to take up residence by installing a buffer of tall grasses and native plants around ponds and streams.
When looking into Mosquito Repellents That Actually Work (And The Ones That Don’t), the citronella-scented geraniums you might find advertised as mosquito repellent plants are lovely plants but there’s no proof they keep insects at bay. So, if necessary, protect your skin with repellents based on oil of lemon eucalyptus. Brands such as Repel and Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus are derived from the native Australian lemon-scented gum tree. It is the only plant-based control recommended by the CDC, and it’s safe, effective, and 100 percent natural.