Mosquitoes Take a Bite Out of Summer Fun

Asian Tiger Mosquito. Photo: Ary Farajollahi, Bugwood.jpg

Mosquito season is (slap) upon us. Fortunately, there are (slap) many things you can do to minimize their (slap) nuisance. 

Only females bite, so that’s the good news. Only half of them are out to get you.

Mosquitoes need water. They have four stages of development – egg, larva, pupa & adult – (complete metamorphosis for you geeks) and spend their larval and pupal stages in water.

Mosquito larvae hang upside down in the water and get air from a siphon tube. They wiggle when disturbed, mildly entertaining. Pupae look like commas and are called “tumblers” for the way they move.

After a snack (cue ominous Dracula music,) adult females lay their eggs on water. They can do this in as little as a teaspoon of water. Yes, a teaspoon. So eliminating standing water is crucial to control.

Water collects in obvious places like ponds and marshy areas. But it also pools in birdbaths, rain barrels, wading pools, pot saucers, gutters, and downspouts.

You also find mosquito-attracting water in used tires, plastic toys, recycling bins, tarps, grill covers, tree stumps, wading pools, pet dishes, and more.

So, eliminate water traps such as used tires. Screen rain barrels. Twice a week add fresh water to birdbaths and pet dishes and remove any water you find any of the other hiding spots above.

Clear debris from gutters and downspouts and cover the opening to corrugated drain pipe on downspouts with pantyhose held with a rubber band. Very sexy.

If you have a pond or rain barrel, use mosquito dunks, donut-shaped disks containing Bti, an organic biological control. Getting goldfish or mosquito fish (Gambusia) that eat mosquito larvae also is helpful.

Part two of mosquito control – after managing standing water – is personal protection. Mosquitoes find us very tasty so we need to know how to keep them at bay. 

Most mosquitoes are active from dusk to dawn, so avoiding activity then is helpful. If you’re having a party or just want to sit on your deck, hook up a fan. The breeze is a serious deterrent.

For more protection, use repellants with DEET, picaridin, Icaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Wear long pants and sleeves since mosquitoes can bite through clothing. Clothing treated with the insecticide permethrin also deters mosquitoes.

Citronella candles, mosquito lamps, and butane-powered repellers aren’t very effective. Bug zappers kill few mosquitoes but many beneficial insects. And mosquito traps actually attract more mosquitoes. 

Everyone’s instinct is to spray, spray, spray, but sprays kill predators and pollinators. You’re killing the good guys that help control many harmful pests.

Birds, bats, frogs, lizards, and dragonflies eat mosquitoes. So create good habitat for them by planting native plants, adding birdhouses and birdbaths, and avoiding chemicals.

To keep mosquitoes from invading your home, use tight-fitting screens on windows and doors and replace tears quickly.

The newest bad actor is the tiger mosquito which is active throughout the day. Bigger, badder, and with striped legs, it is a brute.

Be a skeeter beater. Seek out and eliminate standing water. Dress for protection. And practice active avoidance. Combine multiple controls for less slapping and more smiling. 

By Annette Cormany, Principal Agent Associate and Master Gardener Coordinator, Washington County, University of Maryland Extension. This article was previously published by Herald-Mail Media. Read more by Annette.

One thought on “Mosquitoes Take a Bite Out of Summer Fun

  1. noreen krispin July 12, 2023 / 4:19 pm

    Annette Cormany’s article on that despicable insect, the mosquito, was lighthearted & instructive—a perfect combination for learning.

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