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Rain, warm weather means mosquitoes

Posted: March 4, 2012 - 12:13am

Gardeners look for warm weather and rain when they are trying to grow plants.

Many gardeners are taking advantage of the weather and working in their gardens, and the rain is welcome because we have been in a drought.

But there is a downside to all this: mosquitoes. Spring and summer rains can cause a population explosion.

I recently was attacked by mosquitoes while working in the yard.

Two kinds of mosquitoes are commonly seen or felt: the “ swamp” or “Egyptian” mosquito, which feeds at dusk, and the Asian tiger mosquito, which feeds during the day.

The tiger mosquito has tiny white stripes around its rear legs. Because the tiger mosquito flies and feeds during the day, it is the one that causes the most distress to people.

Although mosquitoes can be blown a distance by the wind, it is likely that the mosquitoes have come from just a few yards away.

Adult mosquitoes lay eggs in standing water, damp soil or rotting vegetation. It only takes a tablespoon of water for mosquito eggs to hatch. The eggs remain dormant until rain saturates the area. A small, hidden pool of rainwater that remains for just 10 days might produce hundreds of mosquitoes.

The first step toward control for either type of mosquito is to look for pockets of water outdoors and drain them. An organized search among neighbors might turn up dozens of mosquito hiding places.

If a pool of water can’t be permanently drained, such as bird baths and landscape water features, an organic mosquito control can be used. The mosquito disease spore Bacillus thuringensis (B.t.) is sold at garden centers. A common brand name is Mosquito Dunks. These can be put in pools of standing water where they provide control for several weeks. The active ingredient has no affect on birds or animals.

Another option is to spray shrubs with an insecticide before outdoor events. The adult mosquitoes like to hide in the thick shrubs during the day, or in the case of the Asian tiger mosquito, they will go back to these sites late in the day.

Using an insecticide such as Malathion can reduce the number of mosquitoes in an area for a small amount of time.

A fogger (not a garden sprayer) made specifically for mosquito control can provide temporary relief outdoors. A special insecticide is sold for use with the fogger. Use it a few hours before an outdoor activity. It will not be very effective on a windy day.

There are new products that provide a mosquito free zone for outdoor events, and there are new products that can clip on belts or cloths that provide relief from mosquitoes.

I have used a Thermo CELL when hunting and fishing, and it works.

In recent years, a plant advertised to repel mosquitoes has appeared in garden centers. This citrosa plant is actually a scented geranium. It has not been proven effective for repelling mosquitoes.

The herb lemon balm also is reputed to repel insects. It is possible that if the plant leaves are rubbed on skin, insects will be kept away for a short time.

One experimenter estimated plant oils to be only 40 to 60 percent as effective as DEET, the active ingredient in most mosquito sprays.

Citronella oil is extracted from citronella grass, which is grown in the tropics.

The oil can be vaporized by mixing it with wax and making a candle to be burned outdoors. Citronella oil is effective for repelling insects. However, the smoke and odor may be too strong for some people’s taste. Several candles must be used to be effective outdoors.

Sometimes the best that can be done is to station cans of mosquito repellent spray near the garden, lawn and deck.

The active ingredient, DEET, is a proven insect repellent. Questions have arisen concerning the safety of the chemical, so avoid heavy application to skin.

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