Natural mosquito control - How to get rid of mosquitoes, safely.
How to protect your family and pets against mosquitoes
Mosquitoes are the most dangerous creature on earth. With the potential for spreading west nile virus, malaria, dengue fever meningitis and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), they infect or kill tens of millions of people each year. For pets, heart worm is a deadly concern.
And, in terms of mosquitoes, it's the females that cause the problems. Male mosquitoes feed strictly on plant juices and nectar but females need blood in order to produce eggs. Over 2500 mosquito species have been identified (fortunately, only a small portion of these feed on humans) and they all have their peculiarities. Each species is most active during different times of the day and,. to make mosquito control efforts more difficult, some mosquito species may travel as much as far as 100 miles in their short lifetimes while others never travel farther than a mile or two from where they were hatched.
When it comes to breeding, mosquito species can be divided into two groups:
Pool breeding mosquitoes: Species that fall into this category lay their eggs directly into standing water daily. Here, under the right conditions, the eggs hatch and mature into adult mosquitoes every 5-7 days producing a steady population growth of hungry offspring.
Flood water breeding mosquitoes: These mosquito species lay their eggs in low lying areas that are likely to become flooded after rains or high tides. The eggs can remain dormant for years but will hatch within minutes when soaked. Some flood water mosquitoes even lay eggs in dry containers, in wait for rain. For these species, all of the eggs hatch at once --which explains why, almost overnight, you may notice an explosion in the mosquito population.
Fortunately, there are a number of common sense, natural ways to protect ourselves from mosquitoes and their bites.
1) Avoidance - One would think that staying indoors is a sure way to avoid mosquitoes. And while it certainly helps (especially after dark when many disease carrying mosquito species are most active), this is not practical for most of us and even here, house mosquitoes have ways of finding you. They like the shelter of crawlspaces, basements, cellars and under decks and have a knack for finding their way inside homes through gaps in windows, doors and foundations, holes in screens and even through vents and utility line openings.
2) Outdoor Mosquito Protection - Hungry female mosquitoes are attracted to hosts by body heat, movement, carbon dioxide from our breath and body scents. While repellents containing 20-30% DEET are proven to the most effective at repelling mosquitoes for several hours with one application, some natural repellents, with essential oils as their active ingredient have been shown to offer protection for shorter periods. Citronella candles also have some ability to repel mosquitoes, however, you'll need plenty of them and within a few feet of where you are sitting. Long sleeved shirt and pants may also provide some outdoor protection -- though mosquitoes can still access exposed skin and bite through thin clothing.
3) Controlling Mosquito Populations - Denying mosquitoes the standing water they need to breed is the most effective way of reducing mosquito populations. Areas to focus on are:
Around Ponds, Marshes and Lakes:
- Consider adding bubblers/aerators that keep surface water moving.
- Cut vegetation around the water's edges to help disrupt this calm, mosquito breeding environment.
- Treat with a larvicide - either a growth regulating pesticide or organic bacteria. Most larvicides are considered to have low toxicity to fish, humans, waterfowl or pets and are even well suited for fish ponds, livestock watering tanks or anywhere where it is impossible or impractical to change water regularly.
- Add Mosquito fish and even Goldfish. These been shown to be beneficial in reducing mosquito larvae levels.
Around the house:
- Fill or smooth out low lying areas and depressions and remove tree stumps where water is likely to pool.
- Discard or properly store abandoned tires, buckets, bucket lids, plastic sheeting or waterproof tarps. Even a bottle cap can hold enough water breed mosquito. Cover trash cans from rain. Fix leaky outdoor faucets and air conditioners that cause standing puddles.
- Keep gutters clean of debris that prevents them from draining properly and remove water from flat roofs.
- Don't just change the water in birder feeders, dog bowls, wading pools but actually flush them out every 3-5 days to make sure all mosquito larvae are removed.
- If you capture drain water for gardening, cover openings with screen to prevent mosquito access
- Keep swimming pools chlorinated
Tools that has been found to be ineffective are bug zappers (because of the light, they attract many more mosquitoes to your area than they actually kill) and, unfortunately, erecting bluebird, purple martin and bat houses. Though bats and some bird species eat their share of mosquitoes, the amount they consume has never been found to make a significant difference.