During Florida’s wet summers, your backyard or patio area can easily become a breeding area for container mosquitoes, said Jim DeValerio, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension horticulture agent. Though there are no reports that mosquitoes are transmitting the Zika virus in Florida, residents should still take measures to prevent mosquitoes from living and breeding in their home landscapes, he said.
Here are DeValerio’s five tips homeowners can use to reduce mosquitoes on their properties.
- Use airy, open landscaping. “Mosquitoes thrive in dense, humid environments,” said DeValerio, so landscapes with plants with heavy foliage growing close together are very attractive. “Thin out bushes and trees so that things don’t get overgrown and become a jungle,” he said.
- Flush, drain or cover things that may catch and hold water. While most people know that mosquitoes, such as those that can carry Zika, thrive in standing water, it’s not always easy to identify places where water can collect. For example, plants such as bromeliads can catch water in their leaves and become breeding areas, DeValerio noted. He recommends flushing out plants such as bromeliads every two to three days. Other commonly overlooked containers include holes in trees, dishes under potted plants, bird baths and sagging boat covers.
- Be on the lookout for all mosquitoes, not just the species capable of transmitting Zika. “Although Aedes aegypti – the Yellow Fever mosquito – and Aedes albopictus – the Asian tiger mosquito, are a concern, there are other mosquitoes that can be found in containers and can spread diseases, such as West Nile fever and encephalitis, dog heartworms and equine encephalitis” DeValerio said. “It is never a good idea to let a mosquito bite you, no matter what kind it is.”
- Prevent rain barrels or cisterns from becoming containers for mosquitoes. “You can put a fiberglass window screen over the opening of a rain barrel or cistern that will prevent adult mosquitoes from laying eggs in the barrel,” DeValerio said. “You can also add mosquito dunks to the water; these are products that contain special bacteria that kill mosquito larvae,” he said. “However, with any product that controls insects, always read and follow the label. It’s the law.”
- Make sure that your landscape is well drained. Check that puddles aren’t forming on your landscape, and that drains and gutters aren’t clogged, DeValerio said. It’s also important to keep landscapes generally free of debris, he said, because a fallen leaf can become a container for water.
DeValerio added that it’s a myth that mosquitoes can be 100 percent controlled. “It’s all about management and taking precautions,” he said. “You need to be aware of where mosquitoes can populate and what they can transmit.”
By: Samantha Grenrock, 352-294-3307, firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Jim DeValerio, 904-966-6224, email@example.com
Roxanne Connelly, 772-778-7200 ext. 172, firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Plants such as bromeliads, pictured here, can catch water in their leaves and become breeding areas for mosquitoes. DeValerio recommends flushing these plants out every two to three days. UF/IFAS Photo by Phil Lounibos.