Summer Mosquitoes

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One result of this current Covid-19 mess is the increased amount of time that I spend on our back porch in the mornings. I also share that back porch with far to many mosquitoes.

Recent rains have promoted (or soon will promote) an increase in mosquito populations. Mosquitoes not only irritate and annoy us, but they also can transmit many diseases.

To control mosquitoes effectively around the home, it helps to know about their lifecycle. Mosquitoes have four distinct stages during their life cycle: egg, larva, pupa and adult. They can complete this life cycle in as little as to 10 days, depending on food availability, weather conditions and the species of mosquito.

Egg stage: Mosquito eggs may be laid individually or in clusters on the surface of water or individually in dry locations that are subject to periodic flooding. Some mosquito eggs can remain dormant in dry conditions for many months.

Larva stage: Mosquito eggs hatch into larvae called wigglers, which are seldom more than 1/2 inch long. Wigglers have a small head, an enlarged thorax (center body section) and a long cylindrical abdomen. Wigglers live in the water. Most of them feed on microscopic plants, animals and organic debris suspended in the water.

Pupal stage: Mosquito pupae do not feed. They spend most of their time at the water surface and tend to move only when disturbed.

Adult stage: Unlike the other stages, adult mosquitoes live on land and are winged. The males feed only on nectar, plant juices and other sources of liquid carbohydrates. Female mosquitoes also feed periodically on nectar, plant sap and other sources of plant carbohydrates for energy.

However, females of most mosquito species require a blood meal as a source of protein before they produce eggs.

Some adult mosquitoes seldom travel more than 200 yards from the breeding sites; other species can travel for more than a mile. This ability to travel long distances can create problems in management.

Homeowners in East Texas do have some means to alleviate mosquito problems around their homes. First, eliminate breeding sites for larvae by reducing standing water that provides breeding sites. Drain water from flower pots, bird baths, rain gutters, rain barrels, birdbaths, pet dishes, livestock watering troughs, etc. at least once a week.

Fill holes or depressions in trees or drain them after each rain by drilling holes into the tree.

Repair leaky pipes and outside faucets. Mow tall grass or reduce the amount of brush and other foliage in your area to reduce the resting sites for adult mosquitoes.

For temporary relief in yards or high traffic areas, use fog treatments or surface treatments of insecticides that are labeled for that use and apply them following directions on the product label.

Once you have tried to eliminate breeding sites, use screening in your homes and pet kennels. Keep the screens in good repair and be sure that they seal around the frames of the door or window.

If possible, schedule outdoor activities during times when mosquitoes are not active. Mosquito species that are active at dusk and dawn can often be avoided. Species that bite throughout the day are more difficult to avoid.

Use repellents whenever in a mosquito infested location. Products that contain DEET have been shown to be the most reliable repellents. For short-term relief in outdoor areas such as patios and picnic areas, use a fogger and citronella candles as a deterrent.

In water you simply cannot drain, use mosquito fish or other fish species in permanent bodies of water whenever the water will support them. Mosquito fish can be found in other ponds, pet shops or bait stores. I use the inexpensive goldfish from the local pet stores in our backyard water feature and have had good results.

One natural bacterial control is Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) found in products such as Mosquito Dunks treat permanent water bodies to eliminate larvae.

You can use oil treatments on the surface of standing water to kill larvae. Use commercial products according to the instructions on the product label. Be aware that other organisms in the water body may be affected by the treatment.