The sun and mild temperatures have made it enjoyable to work outside. The grass is green and many spring flowering trees, shrubs and flowers are putting on an impressive show. Annoying -- and possibly deadly -- mosquitoes also are making an appearance this spring.
Although the hype of West Nile Virus has subsided, recent rains have allowed populations of mosquitoes to explode.
Here are a few safety tips to remember when entering mosquito-infested country:
There are about 200 species of mosquitoes found in the United States. Approximately 50 species live in Kansas. Primarily associated with water, mosquitoes can be found in all areas of Douglas County. After a blood meal, the female mosquito mates and lays her eggs either in water or close to the water's edge. The eggs hatch, and larvae or "wigglers" emerge. After a couple of molts, adult mosquitoes fly from the water to start the process over. Only female mosquitoes bite, and it is her injected saliva that causes the allergic reaction we all dread.
The best method of mosquito control is prevention. Because mosquitoes require water to lay their eggs, minimizing breeding sites minimizes mosquitoes. Unfortunately, rainfall for 24 to 48 hours begins the process. Focus on sources of standing water such as clogged drainage ditches, ponds and swamps. Also search for sites such as tree hallows, plant trays, plugged gutters, unused children's toys, discarded tires and cans and other water-holding containers. Removing the water will remove the mosquitoes. When possible, drain flooded or swampy areas. Pick up trash and turn over unused water-holding items. Use larvicides such as Bt Dunks or Bt Bits in larger water-standing areas. Bt is a naturally occurring toxin safe for mammals but is toxic to mosquito larvae when ingested. Trying to control adults is not advised as many mosquitoes are strong fliers and can travel long distances each night searching for a meal.
To help avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, use personal protection and common sense when entering mosquito-infested areas. When possible, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants and use Environmental Protection Agency registered bug repellents containing DEET as the active ingredient. Be sure to read and follow label directions when using these products. Spray lightly on exposed skin and clothing. Be sure to wash hands and face before eating when using these products. Use enough repellent to cover exposed skin and clothing. Heavy application and saturation is generally unnecessary for effectiveness. If biting insects do not respond to a thin film of repellent, then apply a bit more. After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water or bathe. This is particularly important when repellents are used repeatedly in a day or on consecutive days. Also, wash treated clothing before wearing it again.