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Yet Another El Nino Problem: More Mosquitoes

After a winter full of El Nino-related problems, Georgians are facing yet another effect: mosquitoes. A University of Georgia entomologist said there will likely be more of the insects biting this spring.

"It wasn't so much the warm winter that will affect mosquito populations," said Beverly Sparks, an extension entomologist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. "The wet spring is providing plenty of places for the insect larvae."Click to download 
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Sparks said mosquitoes lay their eggs in pools of standing water, where they mature into larvae and eventually adults. Mosquitoes can lay eggs anywhere water accumulates, she said.

That includes children's wading pools, potted plant saucers, clogged gutters, bird baths, tree holes, ditches and discarded tires.

"If you make sure water doesn't accumulate in these places, you can keep them from breeding and staying close to your home," Sparks said.

Most mosquito species don't fly more than a mile from the spot they matured. So keeping them from breeding near your home will keep them from feeding near your home.

arks said besides pouring out standing water from containers, you can chemically treat natural water collectors like tree holes and ditches.

"There are safe and effective insecticides that kill the mosquito larvae in ponds or drainage ditches," she said. "Or you can eliminate breeding sites by filling tree holes and improving the drainage in ditches."

In larger ponds, wind can provide enough waves to literally drown mosquito larvae. Some pond owners add gambusia fish that eat mosquito larvae.

Short of that, though, you have to realize that mosquitoes are flying insects that, despite your best efforts, can fly into your yard.

"Obviously, you can prevent bites by staying indoors when mosquitoes are most active, in early evening," Sparks said. "And wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and use an insect repellent."

She said repellents containing 20 percent to 30 percent DEET are the most effective against mosquitoes.

"Small children can be sensitive to DEET," she said. "So make sure the repellent you use on young children, toddlers and infants are specially formulated for them."

Some people use ultraviolet light traps to kill mosquitoes and other night insects. But Sparks said those actually attract insects to the area.

"If you use an electronic bug trap, hang it away from the house or activity area," she said. "At least that will attract insects away from your family and friends."

She also cautions that UV lights attract and kill beneficial insects that can help control harmful insects. "No point in killing the good guys if you can help it," she said.

If you're planning an evening party, Sparks said you can apply insecticides to the area that will control mosquitoes for several hours. However, these break down quickly, and the mosquitoes will return.

Many people choose more natural controls, and Sparks said they work quite well. Purple martins -- small black birds -- eat lots of mosquitoes, she said, as do bats. Providing homes for martins and bats can help control mosquitoes without insecticides.

Besides biting and causing itching, mosquitoes can occasionally transmit diseases. "But that's very rare," Sparks said. "For the most part, mosquitoes are just a nuisance. And there are likely to be more of them this spring."

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