cheltenham chamber of citizens
The Shocking Truth about Backyard Mosquito Control
And Better Alternatives
by Judith Gratz, Environmental Education Specialist
This information is a simplified presentation of what the independent experts have found. To have a sustainable Cheltenham we need to heed the warnings the scientists provide us, and know the alternatives that are available - the BMPs (Best Management Practices). To read the article in its entirety go to https://mygreenmontgomery.org/2020/an-interview-with-experts-are-backyard-mosquito-sprays-safe-and-effective/
Keep in mind, the goal is control, not eradication.
It’s shocking to learn what a low percentage of mosquitoes are killed by the sprayed chemicals the commercial companies sell, and what a high number of beneficial insects are killed! Basically, the mosquito spraying that we see advertised with lawn signs does little to control mosquitoes, but kills bees, butterflies, and other pollinators, and birds that eat these. The ingredients in the spray are also potentially harmful to mammals, which includes us and our pets.
It’s helpful to know the lifecycle of mosquitoes, and what you might do at each stage to control them. Mosquitoes have a complete life metamorphosis: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.
YOU CAN USE
* Poisons: just not safe or sustainable (a future article will explain the “pesticide treadmill”)
* No to Bug Zappers. They attract and kill many kinds of insects, including pollinators. They can even kill the predators that feed on the mosquitoes and moths.
* No to Carbon dioxide-producing traps. They will attract mosquitoes from beyond your yard so you’ll end up with more mosquitoes, and they won’t all get trapped. Other insects, often beneficial ones can get caught in these traps. And mosquitoes prefer us anyway.
* Use DEET on your clothing
* Use mosquito repellent on your skin
* Eucalyptus oil or other oils may work
* Try Avon Skin-So-Soft on your skin; it works for some people
* Make sure screens have no holes
* Set up a screened canopy in which to sit
* Run a fan to keep mosquitoes away; they don’t like to fly in wind
* Use LED lights
* Keep your grass cut so they don’t have hiding places (but not shorter than 3”)
* When working outdoors, cover up as much as possible
* Be aware than many mosquito species are active dusk to dawn, so plan accordingly
The adults lay their eggs in “rafts” in standing water. If you have standing water on your property there are a number of BMPs from which to choose.
Commercial pumps that keep water moving: fountain pumps, pond pumps, waterfall pumps, are a few examples. And they are not outrageously expensive. If mosquitoes don’t lay eggs in your water, or if the egg rafts are filtered out of the water, you’ve solved part of the problem.
Turkey baster: You can find and remove smaller quantities of standing water, such as any found in tire swings or other play equipment, holes in trees, troughs, etc., using this simple kitchen tool.
Rain gutter adjustment: Another place to check (or have checked for you), are your rain gutters. If they are not properly angled they will become breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Once the eggs hatch, larvae emerge. They are often called “wrigglers”, they live below the surface of the water, and they put siphons (breathing tubes), above the water to get air. They are quite vulnerable at this stage. The safest and most effective way to deal with these is to drop BTI dunks or bits into the water. BTI is Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, and Primex sells them. BTI kills the larvae but does not harm fish, frogs, pets, birds, or you. Read the directions and follow them for excellent results. Use in Koi ponds, rain barrels, bird baths, troughs, etc. You can use the bits or you can use dish soap or vinegar in small places. Use dunks in larger bodies of water.
When the larvae pupate they are still under water near the surface. At this stage they are known as “tumblers” because their movement looks like they are tumbling to propel themselves. Pupae do not eat; they rely on stored food the larvae ate. Inside their skin they are changing into adults.
Once adults merge they feed on plant nectar. But females need a blood meal to produce eggs. And the carbon dioxide we exhale attracts them! There are numerous ways to safely deal with the females that don’t involve poisons. Here is a list:
What to avoid: