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Spring has arrived and so has mosquito season

Posted: May 7, 2014 - 12:10am  |  Updated: May 7, 2014 - 12:11pm
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Jesus Martinez, with Mosquito Squad sprays for mosquitos around an Evans home. The treatment needs to be repeated every three weeks.   Photo by Jim Blaylock
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Jesus Martinez, with Mosquito Squad sprays for mosquitos around an Evans home. The treatment needs to be repeated every three weeks.

 

As spring temperatures rise, many residents are anxious to get outside.

But one pesky nuisance – mosquitoes – can put a quick end to outdoor activities.

Mosquitoes, who lay dormant and protected during the winter, become active once spring brings warmer temperatures.

“You can say goodbye to chilly nights,” Columbia County Extension Agent Tripp Williams said, adding that it’s time mosquitoes will be emerging. “It’s prime time.”

Last year, Columbia County’s 311 call center received 45 complaints of mosquitoes from April through October, mosquito season, according to the county’s Integrated Mosquito Management Program. Several agencies involved in the program track and respond to mosquito complaints. About 60 percent of those complaints originated from abandoned or neglected pools.

The county received nearly 12 inches more rain than normal in June and July resulting in a spike in calls during those months.

“The more rain, the more mosquitoes,” said Robert Thornhill, a Columbia County Health Department environmental specialist.

Since mosquitoes need water to breed, more rain means they likely have more areas to breed.

Homeowners can do many things to control mosquitoes around their homes.

The mosquitoes’ need for water to breed can also be a liability. The best defense is a good offense, officials say.

Since most mosquitoes don’t travel too far from their breeding sites, “you’re better off starting at your own house,” Thornhill said. “Get rid of breeding sites so they can’t breed.”

Turn over, empty out or clean out regularly anything that can hold water such as buckets, wheelbarrows, bird baths, planters and old tires.

“Another big thing that people neglect and almost everybody has them are gutters,” Williams said. “Keeping them clean from debris is the best way to combat mosquitoes.”

Anything that can’t be emptied such as koi ponds and abandoned pools should be treated with larvicide dunks or granules available at any home improvement store. The larvicide prevents larvae from maturing in adults.

It doesn’t take much water for mosquitoes to breed. More than 100 larvae can grow and mature in a bottle cap filled with water. Williams said that in July, he saw a rain-filled frying pan left outside that was filled with 6,346 immature mosquitoes.

Mosquito eggs, depending on the species, can mature in about a week. So even the smallest amount of standing water can breed hundreds or thousands of mosquitoes in a short amount of time.

A person’s attractiveness to mosquitoes depends on many factors including a person’s particular scent and the amount of carbon dioxide and heat they emit.

Don Gordon said mosquitoes don’t bother him too much. But his wife is apparently particularly attractive to female mosquitoes in search of a blood meal.

So the Evans couple can enjoy their beautiful property near the Savannah River, Gordon said he contracts Scott Anderson’s Mosquito Squad of Augusta to protect his yard from mosquitoes.

“We’ve had it for about five years and it seems to be working,” Gordon said. “I haven’t seen any mosquitoes at all.”

Anderson said his company uses an approach to kill mosquitoes in all stages of development. The company’s barrier protection spray is applied as a mist every three weeks.

The two-pronged approach to mosquito control is a “fogging,” a mist that kills both adult mosquitoes and immature ones.

“We’re doing population reduction,” Anderson said.

Mosquitoes tend to hide in shrubs, mulch and under decks during the heat of the day or to escape wind. The mist is applied to those areas of the yard to kill the adults and the residual left in the shrubs and other areas kills adult mosquitoes that come into contact with it for up to three weeks.

But preventing water from standing is the best way to prevent mosquito populations from exploding.

“Getting rid of those things can really help prevent mosquitoes,” Anderson said.

Williams said he’s had luck using mosquito foggers that can be purchased at local home improvement stores. They are not long-term solutions, but can provide relief from mosquitoes for outside events like cookouts.

“It works great,” Williams said. “But it only works for about five (to seven) hours,” Williams said.

He suggested the thermacell repellents that are readily available. The butane-heated chemicals can be bought as a belt-clip or lantern. They put a “barrier” around the wearer or area.

Simple ideas like placing a fan near deck or patio areas or using candles or incense can help repel mosquitoes.

In addition to wearing light colors and long sleeves outside, personal mosquito repellent is effective. DEET-based repellents work.

For those looking for a more natural repellent, Williams suggests looking for anything with pincaridin, a synthetic version of a pepper plant extract, and lemon eucalyptus.

“They are proven and recommended by the EPA,” Wiliams said.

 

 

 

GIVE YOURSELF A FIGHTING CHANCE

• Tip and Toss – Empty or regularly clean anything that can hold standing water such as flower pot saucers, bird baths, buckets, wheelbarrows, old tires, plastic swimming pools and gutters.

• Think like a mosquito – look for less obvious, random places that hold water such as slack tarps, holes in trees and broad-leaf plants.

• Check the deck – Dry out the moist areas under decks, where mosquitoes love to hide and breed, with sand.

• Attack! – Stock ornamental ponds with small, top-feeding mosquito fish or treat standing water that can’t be drained with bacillus thuringiensus (BT) granules or dunks to prevent mosquito larvae from maturing.

• Slather on the good stuff – Use a bug repellent that contains DEET, pincaridin, a synthetic version of a substance found in pepper plants, or lemon eucalyptus oil.

• Harness the wind – A simple, but effective strategy for fighting mosquitoes is to use a large fan on decks and patios.

 

MOSQUITO FACTS

• Mosquitoes are known from as far back as the Triassic Period, 400 million years ago, and have been found in North America from the Cretaceous Period, about 100 million years ago.

• There are about 2,700 species of mosquito. There are 176 species in the United States.

• The average mosquito weighs 2.5 milligrams.

• The average mosquito takes in about 5-millionths of a liter of blood during a feeding.

• Only female mosquitoes bite humans and animals; males feed on flower nectar. Some mosquitoes don’t bite humans, preferring other hosts like amphibians or birds.

• Mosquitoes can find hosts by sight, movement; by detecting infrared radiation emitted by warm bodies; and by chemical signals (they are attracted to carbon dioxide and lactic acid among other chemicals) at a distance of 75 feet.

• Mosquitoes fly an estimated 1-1.5 miles per hour.

• Salt marsh mosquitoes can migrate up to 40 miles for a meal.

• Bigger and more active people are often more attractive to mosquitoes because they are larger targets and produce more mosquito attractants, mainly carbon dioxide and lactic acid.

• Smelly feet are attractive to certain species of mosquitoes, as is Limburger cheese.

• Dark clothing has been shown to attract some species of mosquitoes more than lighter-colored clothing.

• Mosquitoes are the deadliest animals on earth because they can carry several diseases and parasites.

• A mosquito’s wings beat 300-600 times per second.

Source: The American Mosquito Control Association

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