by Kirsten Conrad, Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent, VCE
We are already seeing calls for spraying to control mosquitoes on neighborhood social media sites. Before you think of spraying, check out these better options for controlling mosquitoes that will not hurt beneficial insects.
Living in Virginia often means sharing our outdoor spaces with mosquitoes. Mosquitoes can transmit disease, as well as being an annoyance. Protection from these flying bloodsuckers starts at home with steps we all can take to eliminate mosquito breeding sites.
Diseases commonly carried by mosquitoes in Virginia include West Nile virus (WNV), Eastern Equine encephalitis (EEE), La Crosse encephalitis (LAC), and Saint Louis encephalitis (SLE). According to the Virginia Department of Health, a few cases of imported mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue, or chikungunya (CHIKV) are also reported each year.
Mosquitoes require as little as a tablespoon of water to lay eggs in. They can successfully breed in any area or container that has still, shallow, standing water for more than three days. The number-one source of mosquito bites in our area is the Asian Tiger mosquito, which is a container breeder.
To eliminate breeding sites, conduct a neighborhood “dump the bucket” inspection and walk-around. Look for:
- Blocked gutters, downspouts, and drain pipes—make sure that water is flowing freely, and consider replacing corrugated non-perforated pipes with smooth-walled pipes that flow freely.
- Buckets, pet water dishes, plant pot saucers, watering cans, and bird baths—do not allow water to stand undisturbed for more than three days, and clean regularly.
- Old tires, car parts, unused toys, and gardening equipment—remove these and similar items that may collect water.
- Tarps over boats, firewood, cars, patio furniture, and other items—tighten them down and make sure that they do not trap water or allow it to puddle.
Water in standing drains like sumps and rain barrels can be treated with a natural larval control that will not harm other insects or animals. Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) publishes an annual Pest Management Guide for Home Grounds and Animals. This is accessible online and can answer questions about control options for mosquito larvae and adults that are effective and rated for homeowner use.
The Extension Master Gardener Help Desk deals with questions and concerns about insects, plant identification, pesticides, plant disease, plant selection, household insects, ticks and mosquitoes, and attracting and deterring wildlife. Located at the Fairlington Community Center, 3308 South Stafford St., it is staffed from 9 a.m. to noon weekdays by VCE Master Gardener volunteers. Appointments are not required, and walk-ins are welcome. The Help Desk can be reached by phone at 703-228-6414 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A full schedule of public education programs related to gardening and Mosquito and Tick Control can be found at www.mgnv.org.
Reference: Mosquitos and their Control, Virginia Cooperative Extension Publication ENTO-202NP
Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent
Fairlington Community Center, 3308 S. Stafford St., Arlington VA 22206