Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes - An Annual Invasion

With all the recent rain, we see a rapid increase in the mosquito population.  Mosquitoes come in several varieties here in West Texas.  Most of the mosquitoes that we see now are of the flood water variety.  They are a nuisance, but usually, don’t carry the diseases we have heard about associated with mosquito bites.  However, as we get later into the season, we will see more and more of the mosquitoes known to carry diseases such as Zika virus, Chikungunya, and West Nile Virus.  Starting now with a systematic organic mosquito control program can alleviate most of the problems that are associated with mosquitoes around your home.

Effective and Non-toxic Control Program for Mosquitoes.

Keep it Clean

Check everything in your landscape that can hold standing water.  Mosquito larvae can exist in minute amounts of water.  We all think about containers left open that collect rainwater, old tires, etc.  An upturned plastic bottle cap from a plastic soda bottle can hold enough water for mosquitoes to breed.  A discarded plastic wrapper, folded and laying flat can hold enough water in the creases to breed mosquitoes.  You must be diligent about cleaning up your landscape.  Anything no matter how small, that can hold water for more than a few days is a possible mosquito breeding space.

Treat Standing Water

Those areas or situations that cannot be drained such as stagnant ponds, open rainwater catchment barrels (These should be screened), or runoff drain lines that hold water, should be treated with Bacillus thuringiensis “Israelensis,” otherwise known as Bti.  It’s sold under different brand names such as Mosquito Dunks and Mosquito Bits.  Adding this to birdbaths and other water-holding places will help control mosquitoes.   It is completely harmless to fish and other wildlife.   I use it in my greenhouse and in my aquaponics system to help control other flying pests, and it does not harm the fish.

Mosquitoes - Larvae
Mosquito larvae found in standing water in a container in the back yard of a residence. Photo by James Gathany

Organic Controls for Mosquitoes

There are organic products on the market that can be sprayed to kill adult mosquitoes.  These are plant pesticide oils.  One such is a product from EcoSMART.  Garlic sprays work well to repel insects.  Broadcasting minced garlic around your landscape at a rate of 1lb per 1000 square feet will work as well. 

Attract Natural Predators against Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes - dragonfly control

Plan your landscape to include plants that attract natural mosquito predators such as dragonflies.  These little aerial acrobats are prodigious consumers of mosquitoes.  Attracting other predators can also be beneficial.  Birds, bats, and even the right fish in your pond will help with controlling flying pests of all kinds.

Avoid using products that contain DEET.  Instead use natural repellants like aloe vera, tea tree oil, lavender, vanilla citronella, and lemon eucalyptus. 

The Futility of Fogging and Aerial Application for Mosquitoes

One more issue that we want to address is the policy of area aerial spraying or truck-based fogging for mosquitoes.   It doesn’t work.  It’s a waste of time and money on the part of the City.  The toxic airborne chemicals that are in use are harmful to beneficial insects, wildlife, fish, pets, and humans.  The airborne toxic pesticide kills on a very small percentage of the flying adult mosquitoes and does nothing to address the real problem, the larvae stage that are in the standing water.  The airborne pesticide does not reach the small tight confined spaces where adult mosquitoes like to hide and rest.  Most of the products that are used in aerial or fogging applications will not control the larvae in the water even if it does get into the wet pockets.  It has been proven over and over in much wetter environments that West Texas that the only way to control mosquitoes is with a comprehensive plan of cleanup and elimination of breeding areas for mosquitoes.   See #1 above.

Mosquitoes are one of the least enjoyable parts of spring and rainy weather.  However, it doesn’t take a wet spring like ours to foster mosquito breeding.   Poor habits around the landscape can lead to a mosquito explosion just as easily as a good rainstorm.

For more information visit our website at www.westtexasorganicgardening.com

For more information about mosquito-borne diseases visit the Texas A&M AgriLife article here