Mosquito Season is Upon Us!

 

“Water, water everywhere….” Goes Coleridge’s Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. He may as well have been talking about Highlands County lately. Lots of rain and more on the way. Mosquito hordes procreated in all the standing water are patiently waiting for an unassuming home gardener to venture out and set up a buffet for them. So, before you venture forth into this horde, here’s a quick Charlie’s Anti-Skeeter Guide written with help from the University of Florida’s Institute of Agriculture and Science (IFAS) http://mosquito.ifas.ufl.edu/ .

There are several varieties of mosquitos here-abouts but they all share a common thread; the female needs the protein in blood to form eggs and produce thousands more blood suckers. There are many chemical signatures and visual methods mosquitoes use to home in on a donor for this gruesome meal such as carbon dioxide in our breath, sweat odors, some perfumes etc., etc. The truth is there are mixtures of dozens of these attractants that draw them to their blood meal. There are many wives’ tales about eating onions to repel them, bananas, garlic and certain vitamins have also been touted. There is no scientific basis that shows these foods work so I would not rely solely on them as a repellent.

Bug zappers and ultrasonic gizmos will not significantly reduce mosquito numbers either. The zappers with an ultraviolet light will kill moths, beetles and other flying critters more effectively than mosquitoes.

The proven skeeter repellents according to the CDC are; Deet, Picaridin, and Citronella with the codicil that Deet with a concentration of 30 percent or lower be used on children younger than three years old, and no repellents be used on youngsters under two. Covering them up is the best method for these toddlers or just keeping them indoors during the early morning and around sunset, the feeding time of most mosquitoes.

I should add that I spent five years working on the Penobscot River in the North Maine woods and the best repellent as far as the old-timers were concerned was a mixture of used crankcase oil from a 32 Ford flatbed truck and pine tar. It repelled mosquitoes for sure but the full-body rash it caused was a bit annoying. So be careful of any repellent that doesn’t have an EPA approved label and registration number. If you have found an old bottle of repellent and want to know if it is safe to use, go to www.epa.gov and search their website for info. For lots of information on various repellents and their effective protection times check out; http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in419. You’ll notice the longest lasting protection time is for Deet 23 percent at 5 hours, The labels on some repellents sometimes say a longer protection time but I’m going by the University of Florida’s research statistics not the marketing department of a chemical company. My philosophy is if I start getting bit I reapply the stuff.

Reducing skeeter habitat is crucial to eradication; Flush out your bird feeders and bromeliads every few days and get rid of any standing water. If you have large puddles or large containers full of water, use a mosquito larva killer containing Bacillus Thuriengensis Israelensis (Bti) available at most gardening centers or online. It may be in a tablet, powder, or granular form. It is safe for bees, butterflies etc. and targets only mosquitoes, gnats, and blackfly larvae. Bats, birds and dragonflies eat mosquitoes as well but will not make much difference in populations; Kill one mosquito and ten million come to the funeral. Get them at the source as larva.

I hope this quick guide helps keep gardeners gardening in our little patch of paradise here in Highlands County.

Got questions? We got answers. Contact the Extension Office on George Blvd. at 402-6540 Or send your questions directly to Highlands Today at: pallavi.agarwal@newssun.com for possible publication if the question will help others. The articles printed here come from questions received at the Master Gardener Help Desk on George Blvd., Sebring. Charlie Reynolds is a Highlands County Master Gardener

 

 

 

 

Written by Highlands County Master Gardener Volunteer : Charlie Reynolds
Published by: Highlands Today Newspaper
For more information visit us at: 4509 George Blvd. Sebring, FL 33875 or call us at: 863-402-7151
Master Gardeners are here to assist you M-F from 9:30am-3:30pm
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