Prevent Mosquitoes this Spring
As piles of snow are beginning to melt, it’s not too early to start thinking about how to proactively protect yourself and your family from vector-borne diseases like West Nile virus—which, as you probably know, has become prevalent in the Chicago area, in recent years. In fact, folks who live in the Southern U.S. or Hawaii may be dealing with mosquitoes right now! Generally speaking, as soon as a region’s average temperature is 50 degrees or higher, mosquitoes begin establishing a presence in that region.
How to Prevent Mosquitoes
The single most effective preventative measure you can take, apart from introducing chemically-based attractants or repellents, is to eliminate standing water on your property. Here are some ideas for places to look for standing water in your yard and near your house—as well as some other specific actions you can take—in order to prevent a mosquito infestation, come spring. Guidelines and patterns will vary, depending upon whether you live in a rural or urban area, but there are some general guidelines to follow, regardless.
Urban Yard Guidelines
First, look for objects and containers where water can collect and pool. Get rid of receptacles such as old buckets and flower pots that you are no longer using, or simply turn them over and make sure they’re dry so as not to attract insects to breed inside them. Inspect trees and hollow stumps for any standing water, and fill them in with mulch or sand. You can also drill holes in the bottom of your kids’ tire swing, in order to prevent water accumulation. If you own a wheelbarrow or an inflatable swimming pool, turn them over, too—you don’t want mosquitoes swimming around in there! Try drilling holes in the bottom of your plastic recycling containers, too, so as not to allow water to collect.
Remember to check surface areas like sections of uneven lawn or garden soil. You can fill in low-lying areas in order to prevent water accumulation. Also, check your drains, ditches and culverts to ensure that they are not blocked; if they are, be sure to clear them of any lawn clippings or trash in order to allow for proper water drainage. As long as ponds and pools are well maintained, insect breeding won’t be a problem. However, if pools are not chlorinated and cleaned out on a regular basis, they can become major breeding grounds for mosquitoes—enough to infest an entire neighborhood, in fact! Water gardens can become fertile ground for mosquitoes, as well, if allowed to stagnate. Just make sure that your ponds are aerated or stocked with fish, in order to prevent this from happening.
Rural Farm Guidelines
If you happen to be a farm or livestock owner, there are some important places to check for potential mosquito breeding grounds. First, if you own horses, you should know that horses infected by West Nile virus have over a 30% chance of dying or becoming disabled, so apart from getting your horses vaccinated for the four most common mosquito-borne viruses—Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis (EEE), Western Equine Encephalomyelitis (WEE), Venezuelan Equine Encephalomyelitis (VEE), and West Nile virus (WNV)—be vigilant in your preventative measures!
Check for stagnant water in your horses’ watering trough; keep them flushed and cleared of weeds, on a regular basis. Also be sure to check the stable area for damp vegetation, which you’ll want to remove, as well as standing water, which you can fill in with sand or dirt. Try installing fans to prevent stagnant air, as well, since still air attracts mosquitoes to barnyard scents like manure and garbage, as well as trapping moisture. Lastly, inspect your pasture for proper irrigation drainage, and avoid turning out your pasture at night, during the warmer months, since mosquitoes are most active between dusk and dawn.
If you own chicken or cattle, prevent weight loss and decreased milk production by keeping an eye on a few key factors. Inspect your fields every so often for areas that could be refilled or re-leveled. If possible, try to keep animals heavier than chickens and ducks off the pasture after a rainfall, since hoof prints create potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes if filled with water. Also, keep your fields rotated and avoid using excess fertilizer.
The Bottom Line
Chicagoland mosquito control begins with you! Besides preventing vector-borne diseases, the absence of mosquitoes will also allow for a more pleasant ambience in your yard—for spontaneous warm weather BBQs, for example! Who wants a mosquito landing on them while they’re eating a hot dog? Apart from your neighborhood entomologist, nobody I can think of! So, before the advent of spring, transform yourself into a cross between a water detective and a superhero with the remarkable power to magically wring all moisture from any object in order to render it instantly dry. Your family, roommates, friends, and neighbors will thank you.
Bio: Troy Myers enjoys hiking, reading, and playing upright bass in a local band. During the week, he writes for the web team at Mosquito Magnet.