Avoid Mosquitoes Abroad and in Your Own Backyard
The Zika virus has made us all more aware of the need to avoid getting bit by mosquitoes when we travel to those destinations that have confirmed reports of Zika infected mosquitoes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists the countries and territories that have travel notices to consult prior to planning a trip or traveling.
The Florida Department of Health has recommendations for preventative action to take when traveling to any location that has confirmed Zika virus.
- You should use an insect repellant (following all label instructions) with any of these active ingredients:
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus
- Para-menthane diol
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants
- Wear clothing that is pre-treated with permethrin or apply a permethrin product to your clothes, but not your skin!
- Avoid getting bitten while you sleep by choosing a place with air conditioning or screens on windows and doors or sleep under a mosquito bed net.
According to the Georgia Department of Public Health you should also protect yourself against mosquito bites for at least a week after you return home from any location that has confirmed Zika. You may have an active infection without symptoms that can be spread to others through mosquito bites.
Now let’s talk about mosquito control in your own landscape.
Even though we don’t have confirmed Zika infection in Florida mosquitoes at this writing, mosquitoes in our state can transmit other diseases such as: eastern equine encephalitis, dengue fever, dog or cat heartworm, chikungunya, malaria, St. Louis encephalitis and west Nile virus.
Let’s first explore what kind of environment in your landscape and around your home is friendly to the proliferation of mosquitoes. Adult mosquitoes lay their eggs on or very near water that is still or stagnant. That is because the larvae live in the water but have to come to the surface regularly to breeze. The small delicate larvae need the water surface to be still in order to surface and breathe. Water that is continually moving or flowing inhibits mosquito populations.
Look around your home and landscape for these possible sites of still water that can be excellent mosquito breeding grounds:
- bird baths
- potted plant saucers
- pet dishes
- old tires
- roof gutters
- tarps over boats or recreational vehicles
- rain barrels (screen mesh over the opening will prevent females from laying their eggs)
- bromeliads (they hold water in their central cup or leaf axils)
- any other structure that will hold even a small amount of water (I even had them on a heating mat in a greenhouse that had very shallow puddles of water!)
You may want to rid yourself of some of these sources of standing water or empty them every three to four days. What if you have bromeliads, a pond or some other standing water and you want to keep them and yet control mosquitoes? There is an environmentally responsible solution. Some bacteria, Bacillus thuringiensis ssp. israelensis or Bacillus sphaericus, only infects mosquitoes and other close relatives like gnats and blackflies and is harmless to all other organisms. Look for products on the market that contain this bacteria.
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