Itch, itch " slap " Ouch! I just got bit by another one! This gardening season has been less than enjoyable because of pesky mosquitoes. And if you have spent any time outdoors -- you will agree that these undesirable insects can turn an enjoyable evening picnic into a slap-yourself-silly battlefield.
Luckily, by changing the environment, using repellents and spraying selective areas with insecticides, you can minimize your chances of becoming the next meal for these blood-sucking insects.
Mosquitoes are aquatic insects that spend part of their life in water and the other part out of water. Female mosquitoes require a blood meal to reproduce. Because males do not lay eggs, they are not blood feeders. However, both feed on flower nectar and other plant juices. The larvae or "wigglers" are filter feeders that move with an S-shaped motion through still water.
Water management is the first step towards preventing mosquito reproduction. Eggs do not hatch unless they are in water. Remove old tires, buckets, tin cans, glass jars, broken toys and other water-catching devices. Change water in bird baths, wading pools and dog dishes twice a week. Clean out roof gutters holding stagnant water and place tight covers over cisterns, cesspools, septic tanks, barrels and tubs where water is stored. Drain or treat standing water in tree stumps. Inspect water in saucers under potted plants. Drain or fill stagnant water pools, puddles, ditches or swampy areas in the yard. Finally, keep grass mowed around bodies of water and stock ponds and reservoirs with fish.
Once breeding sites are cleaned-up, remain "bite-free" by repelling the adults. The most commonly available products contain N, N-Diethyl-m-toluamide (Deet). Deet-containing repellents are available as aerosol sprays, pump sprays, cream sticks, lotions and foams. Formulations containing 50 percent or more Deet should not be used on children. Formulations containing 5 percent to 10 percent Deet will work just as well, however, they will not last as long.
Avon Skin-So-Soft has been widely used as a mosquito "repellent" for a number of years without being labeled as such. Avon Products Inc. has recently obtained EPA approval and is now marketing some of its Skin-So-Soft products for use as a mosquito repellent.
Adults mosquitoes can be controlled with insecticides. Space sprays or aerosol foggers, containing pyrethrins, will give rapid knockdown. However, it is a temporary treatment with little residual effect. Residual sprays applied to tall grasses, weeds, trees, shrubs and outbuildings the day before using the area is better. Mow the vegetation prior to spraying to achieve better control. Sevin, Dursban and Malathion are insecticides registered for residual mosquito control.
Larvae can be controlled in standing water with Mosquito Dunks (made with Bacillus thuringiensis Berliner var. israelensis, or B.t.i.). This natural ingredient is harmless to other living things and is biodegradable. Methoprene (Altosid XR) is another safe material for control of mosquito larvae. It is an insect hormone that retards the development of larvae and prevents mosquitoes from developing into adults. Follow specific label directions when applying any of these products.
Nothing is more relaxing then heading out to the garden after a hard day at work. Unfortunately, while we're in the garden for pleasure, mosquitoes are out there for business. So if you're looking for some way to end the attack, identify and clean-up their habitat, use an insecticide to control pests and use protective measures to keep them off you and the family.