Mosquitoes have earned a reputation for being aggravation and exasperation the world over. Dwelling almost everywhere, so even in very temperate regions, you can anticipate their presence in the warmer months. As the American Mosquito Control Association explains, “Mosquitoes cause more human suffering than any other organism.” Not only do a million people worldwide die from mosquito-borne diseases every year, but these pests transmit several diseases and parasites to animals like dogs and horses. This makes it all the more important to keep this property pest under control.
Risks of Mosquito-Borne Disease
Mosquito vectored diseases include protozoan diseases like malaria, filarial diseases such as dog heartworm, and viruses such as dengue, encephalitis and yellow fever. The insect’s bite can cause severe skin irritation through an allergic reaction to the mosquito’s saliva – this is what causes the red bump and itching.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out that Zika virus, known for causing birth defects in fetuses and paralysis in rare cases of children and adults, is transmitted by two common mosquitoes, the Northern House Mosquito (Culex pipiens) and the Eastern Treehole Mosquito (Aedes triseriatus).
Malaria, a severe and sometimes deadly disease caused by a plasmodium parasite and exhibiting flu-like symtpoms, is transmitted by around 30 to 40 species of mosquitoes. It reaches humans through female mosquitoes of the genus Anopheles. These females take bloodmeals to carry out egg production, which serve as the link between the human and the mosquito hosts in the parasite life cycle.
In addition to Zika and malaria, mosquitoes are also responsible for carrying:
- Dog heartworm
- Yellow fever
- Eastern Equine Encephalitis
- St. Louis Encephalitis
- LaCrosse Encephalitis
- Western Equine Encephalitis
- West Nile Virus
Dogs and horses are also susceptible to several mosquito-borne diseases, such as the dog heartworm, which is a potentially life-threatening disease for canines. If you live in areas where mosquito-borne diseases are common, it’s very important to protect your animals as well as you. A qualified veterinarian can offer more specific advice along these lines.
Facts and Statistics
Mosquitoes are a very serious problem in much of the world. According to the World Health Organization, “Malaria is endemic in 91 countries, with about 40% of the world’s population at risk. Up to 500 million cases occur every year, 90% of them in Africa, and there are up to 2.7 million deaths annually.” Moreover, “Dengue is the world’s most important mosquito-borne virus disease, with 2500 million people worldwide at risk of infection and 20 million cases a year in more than 100 countries.”
With mosquitoes found in every continent on Earth except Antarctica, it is difficult in many cases to prevent their presence. More than 3,500 species exist, many of which feed on humans.
Mosquitoes can also carry diseases to birds and mammals. Only the female mosquito bug bites. Males feed on nectar, while mosquitoes need blood to prepare them for reproduction. A mosquito can drink up to three times its weight in blood, and can lay up to 300 eggs at a time, meaning a single female feeding on you can soon become hundreds if steps aren’t taken to identify and prevent their occurrence. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maps specific disease locations, including those outlining the prevalence of the Zika virus.)
Mosquito Identification and Evidence
If your property is flooded with mosquitoes, it’s very likely that they have an established a presence in nearby homes, gardens, parks and other outdoor settings. That means that the best way to reduce mosquitoes is for everyone to take steps against them in tandem.
But even if you cannot completely control areas outside your own property, it’s still helpful to know the signs of mosquitoes so that you can respond accordingly.
The first and most obvious sign of mosquito presence is the mosquitoes themselves. You may see or hear them, or get bitten by them, which leaves red, itchy welts that are distinguished from the bites of other creatures by a gently sloping, pink or reddish mound which can grow to anywhere from a few millimeters to an inch across, depending on the severity of a person’s reaction to their saliva. In many cases, the bump will disappear without incident – faster if you do not scratch and spread the poison – but some people will develop welts that last for days.
The second major sign of mosquitoes is the presence of their eggs and larvae. Mosquito eggs are arranged differently depending on the species, explains the New Mexico Department of Health. Species of the Anopheles and Aedes genuses lay their eggs singly in water, while Culex and Culiseta “also oviposit on the water, but glue their eggs into a raft.” Whatever species are in your area, you will notice whitish specks floating on its surface, which is a telltale sign of their presence.
Once hatched, the larvae also live in the water, directly under its surface. Some may lie along the top of the water, while others hang suspended from it by breathing tubes. Whatever species you have, you can check for their presence by scooping up some water from a pond, water feature, bucket or other standing water source and examining it closely. You will see the wriggling presence of larvae anywhere mosquitoes are established.
Types of Mosquitoes
There are 41 genera of mosquitoes. The Culex genus includes several hundred species, including the Southern House Mosquito and Northern House Mosquito. The Anapholes genus includes those species that carry malaria, one of the most common of which is the Common Malaria Mosquito. The Aedes genus includes the Asian Tiger Mosquito and the Yellow Fever Mosquito, responsible for much of the transmission of this disease, which is characterized by nausea and vomiting and, in rarer cases, fatal conditions of the heart, liver and kidney.
Mosquitoes range in appearance in many ways: color, length of legs and proboscis, wing shape, body hair and more. Their differences may not seem obvious , it doesn’t matter so much about specific characteristics of each mosquito as it does that you know where to look for them and protect yourself against them.
Common Mosquito Locations
Mosquitoes love standing water. It is where they lay eggs and where larvae hatch, so you will never find them far from stagnant areas of water such as puddles, ponds, slow-moving streams, water features or ditches. They can also collect in potted plants, garden beds and areas of poor drainage.
Once they make their way indoors, they also frequently haunt bedrooms at night, which makes mosquito netting important in countries where mosquitoes are prevalent.
During the day and later at night, mosquitoes tend to be less prevalent, since most species only come out to feed at these times. However, the Aedes species bites all the time, making it important to wear protect yourself at all times.
Treatment Types: An Overview
There are many methods for repelling mosquitoes, but some are more effective than others. You can, for instance, treat the environment. There exist many approaches to ridding your home and landscape of mosquitoes, but these are often only temporarily effective, because mosquitoes can move so freely from other areas. However, discouraging breeding nearby is typically a practical move.
The best way to avoid being bitten is simply to protect yourself with bug spray at all times.
Treating the Environment
Methods of outdoor mosquito control come in many forms, including broadcast treatments, water treatments, natural treatments and traps.
According to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, a garden sprayer can be used apply pyrethroid sprays to treat shady areas around the house, especially around entryways where resting mosquitoes are more likely to come indoors when you enter and leave. Sprays like lambda-cyhalothrin, cyfluthrin and others can work on soffits and wood siding, but they may need to be reapplied more frequently on brick.
There are also hose sprays with pyrethroid insecticides that can work on mosquitoes. These sprays should be applied to shady areas outside where mosquitoes hide in the daytime.
Note that these applications are not appropriate for use indoors, and that you should stay away from treated areas once you have applied the spray. A common approach is to create a perimeter around the edge of the yard so that the space within it remains relatively mosquito-free.
Chemical Treatments of Water
Chemical treatments, which often come in brick or doughnut shapes, can be very effective when applied to standing water. These target larvae that live in the water, until they emerge as adults, and as such are susceptible to chemicals. These may be added to all standing water, even ponds with fish. They typically last a month or two before you need to reapply.
Liquid larvicide products are applied directly to water using backpack sprayers and truck or aircraft-mounted sprayers. Mosquito pest control professionals use these in tablet, pellet, granular, and briquet forms in breeding areas.” To learn more about which larvicides are safe for children and pregnant women see the EPA’s approved list.
If you wish to avoid chemicals, you can use Bacillus thurengiensis israeliensis, or Bti, a type of bacterium that is harmful to mosquito and black fly larva, but won’t harm plants, fish or animals that drink from the water.
Natural and DIY Treatments
A huge number of DIY treatments exist. Recommendations include:
- Neem oil
- Lemon oil
- Eucalyptus oil
- Tea tree oil
Crushed herbs placed around the house and garden are a common anti-mosquito treatment. Other homeowners, apply essential oils to outdoor seating areas or windowsills or burn candles that contain these ingredients. Citronella candles are especially popular for this purppse.
Traps work by baiting mosquitoes into an enclosed area, where they are either trapped with a net, become stuck to an adhesive, or are electrocuted on contact. Different types of mosquitoes respond differently to traps, however, so no one type is effective for every species. If you have more than one kind in your area, which most people do, this may not be the best method to rely on. However, it may prove a good ancillary measure.
More effective mosquito solutions involve protecting your own person, so that no matter where you go, you’ll have a natural shield against mosquito bites and, in turn, the diseases they carry. When it comes to personal protection, you can opt for chemical control or natural methods.
The main approach to mosquito control used by most is DEET, less commonly known as N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide or diethyltoluamide. This active ingredient is present in most mosquito repellents and is very effective. While the mechanisms for DEET’s effectiveness are still unclear, it most likely works because mosquitoes hate its smell.
Natural and DIY Applications
Natural alternatives to DEET include formulas made from essential oils such as mint, lavender, citronella, cloves, eucalyptus, lemongrass, tea tree, and rosemary. Combined with water and witch hazel, these recipes are said to be effective by many. However, they should not be relied on in areas where diseases like malaria or Zika are common. It is a better option in areas with a low prevalence of mosquitoes inside the home, or live in areas where mosquitoes are less dangerous.
Population Elimination and Ongoing Prevention
The best way to ensure your safety from mosquitoes is to eliminate the population in the surrounding area. Obviously, this isn’t entirely within a homeowner’s control. But even if a next-door neighbor keeps standing rain barrels around, you can still do much to reduce the incidence of mosquitoes in your own home.
Mosquito removal is much less effective when they continue to have access to the breeding grounds that standing water represents. Remove water sources from the area surrounding your home and yard. Even a few ounces of water can hold multiple rafts of mosquito eggs or hundreds of single eggs, so even a plant pot or watering can with a few cups of water in it can pose a significant problem.
Keep your gutters clear so mosquitoes cannot breed there, get rid of old tires, and put away tarps or drape them over items so that their creases cannot collect water. Ensure that potted plants, both indoors and out, never have standing water in the soil or trays. If you cannot store some items inside or upside down, drill drainage holes in them so the water they collect will always run through. If you keep rain barrels or other rain-collection devices on your property, keep lids on them when no rain is falling.
Ensure adequate drainage in your garden, fill in unnecessary ditches, change water in birdbaths several times a week, and treat swimming pools and ponds for larvae with formulas safe for people and animals. Periodically pull up a cup of water from these areas and check for the presence of larvae, and treat or call in a professional if necessary.
Protecting Your Pets from Mosquitoes
Dogs, cats and horses are also susceptible to some diseases carried by mosquitoes. Heartworm can be fatal to dogs if unchecked. Some formulas such as DEET aren’t options as they work differently on animal nervous systems than on human ones. Some dog treatments, such as K9 Advantix II are very effective at warding off mosquitoes but toxic to cats. The best approach is to consult a veterinarian, who can discuss the best options for treating all your pets without endangering any of them.
When to Call a Professional
The best way to deal with mosquitoes on a day-to-day basis is simply to protect yourself and your family with regular applications of a verified mosquito control product containing DEET. You can augment these applications with herbal formulas, if you wish.
If the mosquito problem in your area appears to be out of control, you may wish to call in professional mosquito control. This is the best option if you want to spray large areas of your yard or treat large standing bodies of water. Professionals can ensure that you don’t use the wrong chemicals, accidentally use toxic amounts, or employ formulas unsafe for your family or pets. Their treatments are more likely to take all variables into account and ensure that your money is best spent.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention