Hazards of Summer-Mosquitoes: Prevention Is the Protection
There has been a lot in the news about the Zika virus transmitted by mosquitos. Even though all of the information about Zika is troubling, more prevalent in North Carolina are “resident” diseases such as West Nile virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis and LaCrosse encephalitis which show up in relatively low numbers in our state nearly every year. There are about 65 species of mosquitoes in North Carolina, but our primary “mosquito of interest” is the Asian Tiger mosquito. The primary vector or transmitter of the Zika virus is the Yellow Fever mosquito which has not yet been found in North Carolina. However, the main culprit in our state, the Asian Tiger mosquito likes to feed during the daytime when we’re out working and/or playing, in other words from dawn to dusk. The Asian Tiger mosquito prefers to lay its eggs in stagnating water. So, to reduce the Asian Tiger mosquito in around your home you will need to take to following “tip and toss” actions:
Bird baths – Clean them out periodically and flush them out routinely with a garden hose.
Plastic tarps- Tarps that cover boats, pools, grills, firewood, etc. can collect pockets of water that can remain for several weeks.
Swimming pools- Swimming pools and kids’ wading pools that are not used or maintained are probably being used by the mosquitoes. Empty and overturn them making sure that the pool water drains from the area. In-ground and large above-ground pools, especially pools on abandoned or foreclosed properties, should be maintained and cleaned routinely.
Gutters – Remove all of the leaves and other debris that build up in gutters. Although the leaves on the top may seem dry, the water and wet decaying material trapped underneath attract mosquitoes.
Rain barrels – They’re a great way to conserve water resources by collecting rainwater from your roof’s downspouts. However, they can also unintentionally become a great way to raise mosquitoes.
Downspout drain pipes – Be sure rainwater channels away from your house and doesn’t pool up against your foundation.
Trash, trash cans and tires – Make sure trash cans have tight-fitting lids which will also keep out pests such as rats and raccoons. Discard or at least cover old tires, but don’t let water pool in the plastic cover either. If you use tires as swings for your kids, be sure to drill holes through the bottom of the tires so rain water drains out quickly.
Drainage ditches – They’re meant to collect storm water that runs off roads and yards temporarily. Over time, they also collect soil and debris from storms, erosion and mowing. Keep them free of debris so that water flows and has time to filter into the soil.
Tree holes – When limbs fall off trees, the remaining hole in the trunk can collect water. Flush out the tree hole and fill the hole with expandable foam.
Outdoor flower pots – Empty the water from the dishes/trays underneath flower pots. Your plants have plenty of water without the overflow. Over watering plants can also lead to problems with root rot and fungus gnats infesting the plant soil.
The majority of mosquito-borne disease incidences are due to a lack of personal protection. Take precautions when you are outdoors rather working or playing. If it’s too uncomfortable to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, then apply insect repellent to your clothing and/or exposed areas of your skin (never apply these repellents under clothing). It is recommended that products used should be registered with the EPA rather than using home-remedies or “web legends” (such as the dryer sheets) that rely on anecdotes rather than actual scientific data to back up their effectiveness.
DEET is the most commonly used repellent but some people prefer to use other products which are also effective but may not provide protection for the same length of time. This becomes a matter of common sense – choose a product that fits your needs and preference and READ THE PRODUCT LABEL and follow the recommendations for how often to apply it. If you prefer a non-DEET product that has a short period of effectiveness, then it’s simply a matter of applying it more frequently (but not over-applying it). Use repellents carefully, particularly on young children. Some repellents are not intended for infants and reduced concentrations are often recommended for children under the age of 12 years old. Never allow children to apply repellents to themselves or to other children. Spray the chemical on your hands and rub it onto their legs, arms and neck. For infants, mosquito netting placed over a stroller is an excellent choice.