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Protect yourself against mosquito 'baby boom'

By April Reese
University of Georgia

After five years of drought, Georgia came into this spring with a backlog of unhatched mosquito eggs. Now, suddenly, the state is facing a mosquito "baby boom."

Mosquito eggs lie dormant until they're immersed in water, which signals them to hatch, said Nancy Hinkle, a University of Georgia scientist. Because Georgia hasn't had enough rain to flood their habitats in years, leftover eggs from years gone by were just waiting to be soaked and stimulated to hatch.

Hinkle, an entomologist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, said the best way to limit the insects' population explosion is to focus on pools of water left behind by all the rains. These are prime breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Don't worry about ditches or streams where the water is moving. "Mosquito larvae can't develop in flowing water," Hinkle said.

Controlling breeding sites

The cheapest and best way to control mosquitoes, she said, is to get rid of places where they breed.

Used tires, for instance, are "significant breeding sites," Hinkle said. "Tires should be recycled and properly disposed of to keep them from becoming mosquito sources."

There are more potential mosquito nurseries than you might think, Hinkle said. She suggests these tips:

  • Around the yard, remove any container that holds water, or turn it upside down.
  • Clean out birdbaths weekly and replenish them with fresh water.
  • Drain or flush the water weekly in wading pools, flowerpot saucers and other spots where water collects.
  • Clean rain gutters so water doesn't puddle.
  • Trim shrubbery and eliminate tall grass and weeds where adult mosquitoes hide during the day.

Mosquito Larvicide Products

Hinkle said many over-the-counter products kill mosquito larvae.

  • Agnique has an active ingredient that forms a film on the water surface, smothering mosquito larvae. You can buy it from Adapco by calling 1-800-367-0659.
  • Altosid 30-Day Briquets (on-line) and Zodiac Preventative Mosquito Control (in pet stores) contain methoprene, an insect growth regulator.
  • Bactimos Briquets, Mosquito Dunks and Mosquito Bits contain Bti, a bacterium specific to mosquitoes. You can get them on-line or in hardware, feed-and-seed and garden stores.
Another biological control option is stocking standing water with "mosquito fish," or gambusia.

"These small minnows feed on mosquito larvae and reproduce, so they maintain themselves and provide ongoing suppression," Hinkle said.

You can stock lily pools, ponds, ditches and even livestock- watering troughs with these tiny fish. Order them on-line.

For severe mosquito infestations, consider hiring a professional pest-control company with expertise in mosquito control.

For personal protection

For the mosquitoes that have already hatched, repellents can help protect you from bites. Hinkle suggests ways to limit your exposure to mosquitoes.

  • Wear light-colored clothes outside. Dark colors attract mosquitoes.
  • Stay indoors at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are usually most active.
  • Wear a repellent containing DEET, and treat clothing with a product such as Permanone (containing permethrin). Herbal repellents work for less than an hour.
  • If you use citronella candles, orient them so the breeze directs the candle smoke toward you. The smoke is what repels mosquitoes.
Always follow label instructions to protect you and the environment, Hinkle said.

But she advises caution about what you buy to control mosquitoes. They're not always what they claim to be. "Mosquito plants don't repel mosquitoes," she said. "Neither do garlic, herbal bracelets or ultrasonic devices."

Traps that use light or carbon dioxide to lure in insects may attract more mosquitoes than they kill. If you're considering one of these bug-busters, "Give the device to a neighbor a block away," Hinkle said.

To learn more about controlling mosquitoes, call the University of Georgia Extension Service office in your county. Or visit the West Nile Web site at 0021 http://interests.caes.uga.edu/wnv 25A2 .

(April Reese is a student writer with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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