Here are some steps we as a community can take to lessen mosquitoes’ sting.
Mosquitoes breed in standing water. Eliminate the breeding ground to have a direct impact on reducing local mosquito populations. This approach is more effective than fogging/spraying. Fogging only kills adult mosquitoes. It has no effect on larvae, which can hatch and breed a whole new generation of mosquitoes shortly after spraying.
Fogging also kills butterflies, pollinators and other beneficial insects, some of which may actually eat mosquitoes.
Take a walk around your property check bucket lids, toys left out in the yard, untended bird baths, trash (from discarded cans to old tires), clogged gutters, pool covers or anything else that will hold the same water for the five days which is the time needed for mosquito eggs to reach biting maturity.
At least once a week, drain and scrub, turn over, cover or throw out items that hold water. For areas where standing water is difficult to remove, such as ponds or rain barrels, mosquito Bti dunks (available at most hardware stores) are an effective way of killing mosquito larvae without harming other living things.
Kids are natural detectives. Get them involved! Find every item that can hold standing water. Pick it up, put it away, recycle it or throw it away. Getting mosquito-breeding containers off your property in one sweep will make ongoing mosquito-breeding control efficient, and effective.
To protect yourself from mosquito bites use an approved mosquito repellent according to the instructions on its label. For a more natural option, use oil of lemon eucalyptus.
Dress in lightweight long sleeves and pants and treat clothing with mosquito repellent, as mosquitoes can bite through clothing.
To mosquito-proof your home, inspect window and door screens and patch wholes. Use air conditioning when available. And you can plant mosquito-repelling plans for your garden. Try one, or all, of these: Lavender, Marigolds, Citronella Grass, Catnip, Rosemary, Basil, Scented Geraniums.
In effort to ease community concern about mosquito-transmitted diseases like Zika and West Nile Virus, we have in the past tended to rely on our local government to deal with bugs for us by spraying chemicals. Chemicals are only part of the process.
As municipalities understand and support the importance of beneficial insects, especially pollinators, local governments may let property owners opt out of treatment along their fogging routes. If you do opt out, you still hear the sound of the truck going by, but the driver will turn off the chemical flow.
Couldn’t we do without mosquitoes? Human knowledge of ecology is evolving. We can’t predict all the possible effects of eliminating a species. It is not wise to mess with Mother Nature! As a community let’s take responsibility to protect the health of pollinators, people, and the natural world.
Nancy Miner is a Maplewood resident and a Missouri Master Gardener.