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Reducing the Risks of Mosquitos
By Kate Gould, Mosquito Joe of Northwest Houston
ZIka is making the news more and more in recent months. At last count there were 204 cases in Texas, all travel related. However, with the local contracted cases in Florida (59) causing more concern for the southern states, we have been fielding more and more calls from residents regarding mosquito control and the newest mosquito borne illness on our radar.
The best source for information on Zika is the CDC website www.cdc.gov/zika. The best protection against Zika, or any other mosquito borne illness, is the protection from mosquito bites. Educating the public on the role we can all play is a vital part of building our defenses and it extends beyond using mosquito repellent when you leave the house, particularly since researchers continue to argue the effectiveness of DEET (the active ingredient found in mosquito repellents).
Mosquitoes have been around for millions of years, and have perfected the ability to breed and multiply at staggering rates. Being cognizant of their breeding patterns allows us to all play a role in reducing the population in our own backyards.
Mosquitos, for the most part, do not enjoy the sun and instead seek shade and shelter during the day, coming out at dawn and dusk when the sun is low. That means the preferred location for a mosquito is on the underside of leaves, where they have shade and can feed off plant nectar. They are not very good at flying, so most don’t travel far. When they do, it is typically because the wind carries them. Mosquitos are shy insects due to the fact that they are not agile or fast.
Ever wonder why mosquitos bite? Well for one thing, male mosquitos don’t bite. The female requires a blood meal to lay her eggs, which means that each time you are bitten you are preparing to welcome between 100 and 200 new mosquitos into the world. Mosquitos follow carbon dioxide plumes to the source, hopping from shrub to shrub as they move in to bite.
The female mosquito heads off to lay her eggs in what we call “rafts” or clusters. The preferred location is stagnant water, but a dry area of yard that typically floods works great too. The eggs require water to hatch but amazingly those eggs can sit dry for over 10 years and survive. The larvae, or “wrigglers,” live in the water for 10 days before becoming adult mosquitos. At this point they leave the water, seek a mate, breed and bite, and the process repeats. A single female can lay 200 eggs every three days over the period of her life. That adds up to more than 3,700 eggs per female mosquito.
So, what can we do to combat this growing threat? Eliminating the breeding areas in your yard can have the greatest impact on your backyard population. One capful of water can produce 100 mosquito eggs every three days. Make sure to clear all blocked drains and gutters and remove all standing water by tipping over pots, drilling holes in tires, emptying toys and cleaning up trash.
But, even that won’t fully eliminate the threat. Private companies, like Mosquito Joe, use products in yards that help create a barrier, preventing mosquitos from entering the area in the first place. We also dump all water and treat the water we cannot remove, so that larvae can’t become adult mosquitos. This helps reduce the population of mosquitos by up to 95% in our customers’ yards.
Occasionally, I hear someone comment that ‘the trucks have been out spraying so they don’t need to worry about mosquitos. The problem is: city or county trucks that spray our streets don’t have the ability to get into your backyard. They essentially control the population of adults that happen to be near the street at the time they pass by.
If we all removed the breeding grounds in our yards would we rid ourselves of mosquitos? No way. But we would substantially lower the population, substantially decreasing bites and the risk for spreading dangerous viruses like Zika.