Bothered by Mosquitoes
Mosquito season is upon us! Tips for avoiding getting bit.
Mosquito season is upon us! Most people have been bit or bothered by these insects at one time or another. While male mosquitoes feed solely on flower nectar, most adult female mosquitoes also feed on blood from a variety of animals – including humans. During feeding, adult females may transmit west nile virus (WNV) or St. Louis encephalitis, among other pathogens. Immature mosquitoes (called larvae) are wingless filter feeders that live in standing water. Mosquito larvae can often be seen wriggling near the surface of mud puddles, ponds, or other standing water sources. The larvae of some mosquito species thrive in sewer water, while others are found in as little as a half-cup of water.
Excluding, avoiding, and eliminating mosquito habitat are the most effective ways to manage mosquitoes and reduce transmission of WNV. Exclude mosquitoes from the indoors by keeping doors closed and window screens in good repair. To avoid mosquito bites while outdoors – especially around dawn or dusk – wear long-sleeved shirts and pants. Identify and eliminate sources of standing water around your home and neighborhood, including drip trays beneath potted plants, over-irrigated lawns, abandoned pools, and unused tires. Bird baths should be emptied and cleaned every few days. In cases of standing water, such as fish ponds and livestock troughs, consider applying Bacillus thuriengiensis israelensis (or “Bti”). This bacterium is harmless to animals, but toxic to mosquito larvae. Mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) may also be used in water troughs and backyard ponds, but care should be taken with this efficient predatory fish to keep it from entering local waterways.
Broadcast spraying pesticides to kill adult mosquitoes, a practice referred to as “fogging,” is the least efficient method for managing mosquitoes. Many adult mosquitoes rest during the day in cool, protected areas, such as the underside of vegetation. This behavior limits contact with the fogging agents. Mosquito abatement and vector control districts encourage mosquito prevention at the larval stage, and usually rely on fogging adults as a last resort.
When avoiding mosquitoes isn't an option, try a natural repellent instead of chemicals. Here's one we like:
- 2 tablespoons of witch hazel
- 2 tablespoons of one or a combination of the following: grapeseed oil, jojoba oil, almond oil, olive oil, or neem oil (which contains natural insecticidal compounds)
- ½ teaspoon vodka as preservative
- 100-110 drops essential oils (lemon eucalyptus, rosemary, and peppermint in a 6/3/1 ratio is a favorite of some of our staff) Looking for essential oils? Mountain Rose Herbs has a bunch!
To learn more about mosquito prevention options in your area, consult your vector control district and visit NCAP’s Home and Garden toolbox: http://www.pesticide.org/Alternatives/home-and-garden-toolbox/pest-solutions/mosquitoes-commonly-used-pesticides