Northern house mosquito (Culex pipiens)

Northern house mosquito (Culex pipiens)

Crazed By Mosquitos

by Trish Beckjord, RLA

A friend of mine recently told me she is having her yard sprayed regularly because the mosquitos are so bad. She lives in a wooded area where the yards to the left and right of her have standing water in the spring. They likely have standing water ponds even now following all the rain in the past month or so. I wonder if the spraying is being effective.

Closer to home, a homeowner I was visiting told me their husband absolutely did not want bird baths in the yard because of mosquitos. I wonder if this is effective too…

Somewhere in between these two strategies is where we really need to be.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the month of May was the fourth wettest in Chicago’s history, and we have had more rain since. There are a number of different species of mosquitos. Some just bite and some carry disease. Transmission of West Nile Virus is more likely than Zika in this area. Again the Tribune had a helpful article on this issue.   It is worth taking time to read.

So is spraying to kill adult mosquitos the best thing to do? It turns out that the answer is no. Spraying, misting, fogging all target adult mosquitos who come in contact with the adulticide. Flying mosquitos who do not come in contact with the chemical are not affected.

  1. The best first step is to eliminate all stagnant pools of water where mosquitos breed. Check things that will hold water like flat roofs that don’t drain, clogged gutters or ones that don’t empty, pool and chair covers, outdoor grill covers, boat covers, children’s wading pools and toys left outside, plant pots or drainage trays, buckets or other containers that can hold water, trash or debris. Do you have a boat, canoe, jet-ski? Check covers and anywhere else in uncovered equipment that can hold water – even small amounts.   In short, anywhere that water can stand. Searching for these problem sources might be a fun project to do with your kids.

    If you leave water bowls out for your pets, change them daily; if you have birdbaths change the water at least weekly. The larval cycle of a mosquito is 10-12 days. If you have a tire swing, drill holes in the bottom so water can drain. If you have an ornamental pond that can become stagnant, stock it with fish who will love eating the larvae.

    If you have a rain barrel, make sure all openings are covered with a screen which will keep adult mosquitos out.

  2. Encourage natural predators such as birds and bats by putting up birdhouses, bat houses, feeders and planting native plants in your garden.

Although the mosquito species that transmit Zika have been found in Illinois, the Illinios Depatment of Public Health does not expect this mode of transmission to be high risk. The greater incidence of transmission is West Nile Virus. The Centers for Disease Control has information available that is helpful here and here.

Remembering that the insecticides used kill other insects too, there are additional tips and information from the Midwest Pesticide Action Center . Mother Nature Network also has a post titled “How to Kill Mosquitos Naturally” that you might be interested in taking a look at for their discussion on the different types of insect repellants and the effectiveness of fans…. Hmmm.

Finally, just for the heck of it, I queried Google on “can you kill mosquitos and not other insects?”   Here is a post from the Arlington Regional Master Naturalists in Virginia. Spoiler alert: There are no easy answers….