Herald JournalHerald Journal, Aug. 4, 2003

Advice from a mosquito expert

By Ed Meehan
Howard Lake

With the occurrence of human West Nile Virus right here in Wright County, and the worst of the disease season yet to come, the question of how to better protect people and animals from mosquitoes becomes a much more important issue.

We all hear over and over again, the same recommendations on TV, i.e. wear long sleeves/pants, use repellants, etc. These are really good recommendations and should be followed. However some of the really important things are many times not discussed, or get shrugged off as not really important.

There are several really important questions to ask about mosquitoes when trying to control them:

1. Where are they coming from?

2. Where are they hiding during the day when the hot sun is out?

3. What can an individual do to help control the mosquitoes?

(1) Mosquitoes need moisture not only to hatch and grow-but to even exist. If asked question #1 above, most people would reply: Swamps, rivers, lakes, etc. While some percentage of mosquitoes do come from lowland areas, the majority probably come right from within our city or individual yards.

(2) City storm drains and catch basins are really great spots for mosquitoes to breed, hatch, grow and hide. It is usually cool and damp down there with water in most of them for extended periods.

But, probably just as important are rain gutters plugged with leaves (they contain organic food, moisture, shade), old tires, flower pots, a small depression in an unused boat or trailer cover, forgotten plastic/glass jugs, neglected swimming pools ­ all of these are great mosquito producers.

Something as small as a 6-inch flowerpot containing old stale water can produce thousands of mosquitoes.

(3) In recent years, mosquito control has defaulted to an extensive amount of larviciding (trying to control mosquitoes while still in the water/larval stages).

Much of this is due to promotion of larvicide products by large corporations and the fact that larviciding (putting products into water) is mostly "non-noticeable" and creates very little public resistance or outcry-i.e. the easy way out.

However it is literally impossible to larvicide the kazillion of places that would need treatment. You would have to examine every lot, gutter, etc. to even try to be effective

Secondly, no one ever has been bitten by larvae. The adult, flying mosquitoes are the pest/problem/

carry the diseases. One of our local common species: Aedes, is a very aggressive biter. Aedes sub-species Albopictus are even notorious as daytime biters.

While larvicides can be an excellent choice of control in hot spots like in the storm drains, etc., "fogging" and "barrier control" are the crux of controlling flying adult mosquitoes.

Fogging individual yards would be very marginally effective and very short term. Fogging should be done more on a citywide basis. Barrier control is an excellent choice for both small and large areas.

This method can keep mosquitoes out of a back yard or area for days depending on the weather conditions.

Individual can purchase barrier type consumer products to spray their yards at some retail outlets; purchase non-restricted use industrial products/sprayers from mosquito control companies; or even hire private contractors to come in and treat their property.

Individuals should examine their property for places/items that grow mosquitoes and then be adamant about following those recommendations/guidelines that we hear over and over again.

Meehan is a mosquito control expert and has worked for decades with the US government in the area of mosquito control.

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