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Wednesday, June 3, 2009 04:57 pm

Mosquito, king of the pests

Mosquito, king of the pests

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The other night while dozing I heard the buzzing of a mosquito. After about five minutes the culprit was glued to a flyswatter. Of all the bothersome insect pests, however, mosquitoes are probably the most troublesome. While most mosquitoes are merely a nuisance, some can transmit diseases including West Nile encephalitis.

Mosquitoes are best known for the bloodsucking habits of the females. The females need blood in order to develop eggs. Males feed on nectar from flowers and other plant juices.

Mosquitoes have four distinct life stages — egg, larva, pupa and adult. Mosquitoes need standing water, preferably with organic material, to grow and breed. Organic materials serve as food for developing larvae. Female mosquitoes lay eggs on water or in moist areas including interior walls of treeholes, cans, old tires, gutters and anything else that will hold water. Most larvae hatch within 48 hours. Water is also necessary for the larvae and pupae to live. A mosquito can go from an egg to an adult in less than a week.

Everyone can do their part to reduce the number of mosquitoes in their neighborhoods by eliminating standing water.

• Make sure that drains and culverts drain properly. Keep them free of grass clippings, weeds and trash.

• Regularly clean gutters and window wells. Make sure that gutters drain completely after a rain. If they don’t drain properly it is time to clean them. Leaves and other debris can accumulate in gutters.

• Look for anything in your yard that can hold water. At least once a week, empty standing water from buckets, watering cans, wheelbarrows, boats and old tires. If possible, store containers upside down, discard old tires or store items in a shed or garage. Store boats covered.

• Place 16-mesh window screen securely over the top of rain barrels to keep mosquitoes out.

• Every few days replace water in bird baths and kids’ wading pools.

• Pet water containers should be emptied and the water replaced daily.

• Clean and chlorinate swimming pools and drain excess water from pool covers.

• Empty saucers under flowerpots every time you water.

• Keep the grass mowed and the weeds cut down. Adult mosquitoes look for shady places such as tall grassy areas to rest during the day.

• Water gardens can also be a site for mosquito larvae to live. Keep the water aerated or add fish to the water garden. They will feed on mosquito larvae. Dragonfly and damselfly larvae are also good predators. Keeping the water moving will deter mosquitoes. Keep fallen leaves and debris out of the water feature.

In standing water areas such as water gardens, larvicides such as Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) can be added to the water. Bti donuts control larvae for 30 days and each donut treats 100 square feet. Bti donuts are safe for fish, plants, wildlife and pets. As with any insecticide, read and follow the label directions.

Prevent mosquitoes from entering dwellings by screening or sealing all gaps. Caulk crevices around doors, windows and vents or use weatherstripping, and repair damaged screens. Good luck with getting the kids to keep the doors shut.

Here are a few tips for keeping mosquitoes from bugging you: wear light-colored clothes, wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants, avoid using perfumes and body lotions, apply mosquito repellent. Stay indoors during active times for mosquitoes. They generally attack between dusk and dawn, but have been known to attack about any time of the day.

Learn more about the different types of mosquitoes, how to protect yourself and much more at the following Web sites: University of Illinois Extension, Preventing West Niles virus, urbanext.illinois.edu/westnile

Illinois Department of Public Health, Healthbeat, Mosquitoes, www.idph.state.il.us/
public/hb/hbmosquito.htm.

Illinois Department of Public Health, Prevention and Control, Mosquitoes and Disease, www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/
pcmosquitoes.htm.

Contact Jennifer Fishburn at fishburn@illinois.edu.

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