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Tips to keep mosquitoes away

By Paul Guillebeau
University of Georgia

Volume XXXIII
Number 1
Page 20

Summertime brings out mosquitoes. The good news is that the risk of catching a mosquito-borne disease is pretty small. The bad news is that some mosquito-borne diseases, like encephalitis, can be devastating.

Here are a few ecommendations will help you protect your family.

• Minimize mosquito-breeding sites. Once a week, empty any container that holds water, including birdbaths, toys, flowerpot saucers, rain gauges and tire swings. Ask your neighbors to do the same.

• Use mosquito dunks in water that cannot be emptied weekly, such as ornamental ponds. If you have fish in your ponds, you may not need to use any control method. Many fish eat mosquito eggs and larvae. If the larvae and pupae are abundant, you will see them.

• Keep ground covers trimmed. Cut grape ivy and other low-growing plants around the house. This can greatly reduce the number of adult mosquitoes because they do not have an attractive place to rest.

• Use insect repellents. Products containing DEET are the most effective against mosquitoes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently added two new active ingredients to their guidelines – picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus – as viable alternatives for people who object to using DEET.

• Keep household screens in good repair.

• Wear light-colored clothing. Mosquitoes are less attracted to light-colored clothing than dark. Certain types of mosquitoes prefer pregnant women. Some types of mosquitoes prefer human skin temperatures over 90 degrees.

If you are attending an outdoor party, the key to keeping mosquitoes away is to be cool, wear light-colored clothes and chat with pregnant women who prefer dark Gothic styles.

Be aware that mosquitoes can bite through T-shirts and other lightweight, tight-fitting clothing. I guess another option would be to attend outdoor summer parties wearing a heavy, loose coat. (You won’t be invited to many outdoor summer parties, but maybe you and the pregnant Gothic woman will hit it off.)

Bug zappers do not kill many mosquitoes, but they kill a lot of beneficial insects. Bug zappers are useful against some insects but not mosquitoes. Ultrasonic devices are almost worthless for insect control. Don’t waste your money.

Bats and purple martins don’t eat many mosquitoes. They prefer insects with a little more meat on them.

The risks of an unmonitored pesticide application, like automated pesticide misters, almost always outweigh the benefits.

Mosquito foggers can be used to greatly reduce mosquito populations in a small area for a few hours. Be sure to use a pesticide that is labeled for your use site and always follow the pesticide label directions.

Mosquito traps usually catch a lot of mosquitoes, but they may not catch enough to keep mosquitoes from biting you. In a small, somewhat enclosed area, a trap may be useful. If mosquitoes are coming to your party from all over, you may not think a trap is worth the money. If I spend more than $200, one mosquito bite will probably seem like too many.

For more information on protecting your family from mosquitoes, visit www.ent.uga.edu/pubs/mosquitos.htm.

(Paul Guillebeau is a Cooperative Extension integrated pest management/pesticide coordinator for the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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