Gardeners know the best time to be out doors tending the lawn, landscape and garden is in the early morning and late evening, when the sun is not beating down its extreme heat. This is the also the time when we are most likely to be bugged and bit by mosquitoes. Of course there are also mosquito species that bite during the day. Besides the aggravation of being bitten, mosquitoes also transmit diseases, with West Nile virus being the one of most recent concern. Mosquitoes also transmit heartworms in dogs.
Protect Yourself: To avoid contact with mosquitoes, wear long, loose-fitting clothing to avoid their bites. The best recommendation is to use repellents whenever you will be outside for more than a few minutes. DEET has shown to be the most reliable and long-lasting repellent on the market. Products with picardin also demonstrate good protection, but do not last as long as DEET. Plant-based lemon oil of eucalyptus also gives good protection, but like picardin products, do not last as long and need to be reapplied more frequently. The active ingredient IR3535 found in Avon products provides even shorter protection against mosquito bites. This EPA web site provides a listing of repellents and other information: cfpub.epa.gov/oppref/insect/
Don’t Breed Them: It is amazing how little water is required for a mosquito to be able to complete their life cycle from laying eggs to emerging as adults. Some species can complete this life cycle in as little as 10 days. A neglected bucket holding water after a rain can quickly populate your yard with mosquitoes. Mosquito adults live on average a week to a month, depending on many conditions and species. It pays to take time to look around your yard and make sure you are not breeding them. Here are some common breeding sites:
Take all precautions to reduce standing water in anything that can hold as little as a cup of water. Here are some items to look for: cups, soda and other aluminum cans, bottles, children’s outdoor play toys (especially wading pool – empty weekly and store when not in use), tarps over boats or other machinery (that little depression will breed mosquitoes), wheel barrows (store tipped upright), old nursery pots and buckets (store upside down), and potted plants (especially saucers underneath pots). Tires and accumulated garbage also serve as breeding sites. Empty, clean and refill bird baths frequently, at least once a week.
Ponds without fish will also be breeding sites. Drain the water source, or add mosquito fish or others types of fish. Also, abandoned swimming pools, whether in your backyard or in an unoccupied house, are common breeding grounds. For standing water that cannot be drained or cleaned, you can add the ingredient Bacillus thuringiensis israelinesis, a very safe product for mammals, birds, and fish, but kills mosquito larvae. They are sold as cubes or shaped like donuts, with names like Mosquito Dunks®, designed to control the larval stage (wigglers) of the mosquito in standing water.
Another breeding source is uncleaned gutters, especially ones which no longer drain properly due a sag. Accumulated leaves along with standing rainwater in the gutter makes a perfect breeding site for mosquitoes.
A common way for mosquitoes to get inside your house is through your doors. Doorways are often located under porches where it is dark and cooler, and that is where mosquitos like to hang out during the day. You open the door, and they easily fly inside. These areas can be treated with a residual insecticide to deter them from hanging out there.
Another place mosquito adults hang out during the day is under bushes, shrubs, tall perennials, etc. You can temporarily reduce their population using foggers or pump-up sprayers, making sure to penetrate under the foliage. When applying any insecticide, always read the label to determine if the product is approved for use on the target area and for the target insect, and carefully read and follow label directions for protective clothing and application rates.
Dr. Mike Merchant, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Urban Entomologist in Dallas, has produced some good, short informative videos on mosquito control, along with several articles with details on dealing with mosquitoes. These can be found on his web site: citybugs.tamu.edu