38 August 13, 2008
August use to be one of the most carefree months of summer. It has now become a month of caution because of an increased awareness of potential mosquito borne illnesses. We have been lucky in that we have not had a major outbreak of West Nile virus in birds or Eastern Equine Encephalitis in humans. As is the case with so many diseases, we worry about being safe and hope that the problem won’t increase in our area. Unlike so many other diseases, we know the carrier of the disease. It is the mosquito. State, county and local authorities monitor the large areas of stagnant water and spray those areas with a biological larvicide that kills the mosquito larvae, yet does not harm birds and other wildlife. However, this spraying does not eliminate all of the breeding areas for mosquitoes. I once read that mosquitoes can lay eggs in a bottle cap full of water and have those eggs turn into adults. We can all help to prevent the spread of mosquito born illnesses by controlling areas of stagnant water around our homes and businesses.
A number of years ago, our store received a large shipment of whiskey barrels to be sold as planters. Wooden barrels that are stored outside need to be kept wet to prevent the wood from drying out. The easiest way to do this is to partially fill the wooden barrels with water. We did this and it didn’t take long for the mosquitoes to find the water filled barrels and lay eggs in the barrels. One day I went out to check the barrels and found the mosquito larvae had hatched and you could see the larvae coming to the surface of the water to take in air. At that point I knew I had to do something to control the mosquito larvae. In each barrel I placed a product containing Bti. This is the bacterium that kills the mosquito larvae without harming birds and other wildlife. Within a few days of applying the product, all of the mosquito larvae were dead.
With our constant rainy weather, we now have the perfect breeding conditions for a huge increase in the mosquito population. The control of mosquito larvae over large areas needs to be done by governmental agencies. Your yard is also a breeding area that you can do things to prevent those breeding areas from becoming the home to many mosquitoes. First and foremost, make sure that you eliminate any areas of stagnant water. After each rain, dump water out of any buckets, wheelbarrows, kids wading pools and any other item that holds water. If you take some time to walk your yard you will find areas where water gathers. If you have items, like a wheelbarrow, that you can empty and store inside, do so to eliminate a potential breeding area.
There are other areas that you may have standing water that you may not want to dump out the water. This would include water gardens, birdbaths and other water features. These areas can be treated with Bti larvicides. Most garden centers sell this product. Each application of Bti can last 30 days. Another area that you should check are the gutters on your home. In many cases any low spots in the gutters, or the end of the gutters can hold enough water to form breeding areas for mosquitoes. The Bti comes in small packets that you can toss into gutters to treat those areas.
If you have large areas of stagnant water such as drainage swales or naturally low lying drainage areas, you can treat those areas with Bti as well. A product called Mosquito Dunks are ring shaped and can be tossed into areas of stagnant water. Each ring treats a 10 ft by 10 ft area for 30 days.
This column wasn’t meant to scare you. It is written to tell you about a pest in your yard that you can help to control. If you knew that a beetle was eating your vegetable plants or flowers, you would treat the plants to control the beetle. You should treat your yard to control mosquitoes. The product you use is an organic control that is very effective at killing mosquito larvae. People worry about mosquitoes and what threat they pose to us. If we each pitch in and try to eliminate as many mosquito breeding areas in our yards as we can, than we can make a difference in cutting back the mosquito population in our area.
Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.