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Summer Pests: Mosquitoes

By Chris Williams on September 3, 2019.

There are a variety of ways to control mosquito populations on your property. Zach Ciras, quality manager at Colonial Pest Control, discusses the variety of effective mosquito control techniques to try this summer. Listen or read more to learn about the most common summer pest: mosquitoes.

John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Zack Ciras, quality manager with Colonial Pest Control. Today our topic is summer pests, mosquitoes. Welcome, Zack.

Zack Ciras:   Thanks, John. Thanks for having me.

John: Sure. So, Zack, are mosquitoes just an irritation to us as we’re outside in our backyards during the summer and we’re cooking out and things like that, or can they really be dangerous?

Zack:  Well, they are a big irritation. They certainly are. If they are anything, they’re an irritation, but they can be dangerous. I know my wife, if one mosquito bites her, she smacks her arm. She’s in the house for the rest of the night. But they can carry some other diseases as well, not just the diseases for humans. Everybody knows about the Zika concerns, which is a valid concern, but not necessarily in our area. We do have some other diseases up here. We got West Nile virus, Tripoli. Those have been documented in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. They’re definitely around here. And I wouldn’t say that it’s something that’s going to be going away anytime soon. But, think about heartworm. Heartworm is a parasitic disease or parasitic problem that actually affects your pets as well from mosquito bites. You might not necessarily think of your dog or cat being out all night, getting bit by mosquitoes. That could be an issue for their health, not just an annoyance to your health. There’s still somewhat rare, but real concern about West Nile or Tripoli.

John: Right. So just taking my dog for a walk at dusk when the sun’s going down and the dog’s getting bitten by the mosquitoes, that could be an issue.

Zack:  It certainly could be. And they can’t tell you. They can’t tell you that they were bit. They can’t tell you that they’re not feeling super awesome today. It’s something that you have to stay on top of and really make sure that yourself and your pets are protected.

Minimizing Mosquitoes in Your Yard

John: So, what are some of the things that a homeowner can do to try to minimize the amount of mosquitoes that are in the yard? Is there anything that people can do to try to control the mosquitoes?

Zack:  Absolutely. There there’s so much that a homeowner can do, and the source material that mosquitoes are breeding in could be very minimal or it could be a large obvious area. Recently, I was in a yard for a customer and there was a bucket on the side of the house and it had just been face-up collecting water all springtime. And we had some good rainfalls this springtime, if you remember. A lot of water had built up in there. It became stagnant. Mosquitoes, a female mosquito flies in, drops down, lay some eggs. And before you know it, that bucket is overflowing.

But then there’s also the kids’ play pool. You know the ones that looked like . . . it’s actually a sandbox that looks like a turtle? Well, if that turtle shell is up and flipped upside down, you have a giant cup, and then you have all the exposed sandy area that is also a giant bowl, and that was loaded with mosquito larva, and there’s also the kiddie pool. This is a cool kiddie pool, John. This was a swimming side and what looked like a hot tub side.

John: I didn’t have one of those when I was a kid.

Zack:  Me neither. We had a hose and one of the plastic small blue ones.

John: Right, right.

Zack:  This thing, both sides of it, so the sandpit, the cover for the sandpit, the bucket and both sides of this kiddie pool, they were just loaded with mosquito larva because it was standing there a couple months. It doesn’t take very long. A couple months can give you a lot of mosquito larva and all those larvae are going to hatch out. Let’s say half of those are female. They’re all going to lay eggs and it’s going to be an overwhelming problem pretty quickly.

So, you want to look at the big obvious things like that, the buckets. Everybody knows about the tires. A lot of your local municipalities, they actually have tire programs where you can bring in your unused tires, and that’s great to reach out to the different governmental agencies that deal with mosquitoes. And if you do a search online, wherever you are, just mosquito control program in your area, there’s a lot of great resources now and you can do the tire buy backs. They can do localized spraying in some areas as well that you might not have access to. Those larger obvious areas are an issue.

The smaller areas like the crotch of a tree where you have water where the tree splits off and you have that little concave section inside of there, that will collect water right in the middle of the tree. And anywhere you’re going to have water that’s stagnant that doesn’t drain readily, old house plants that you might’ve put outside because the ficus isn’t doing great, let’s just put out in the yard and forget about it. Any little puddles that really collect water for a period of time. The bird bath that’s kind of not a bird bath anymore, it’s a mosquito bath. All these areas that you don’t really think about on your day-to-day lifetime. The old grill that you don’t use anymore but twice a year. Any small area, an old cup, a cup that you have outside that you forgot about from last year’s party, that’s collecting water and anything that’s collecting water and holding onto that water and make it stagnant, that’s where you’re going to have mosquitoes breeding.

So, getting rid of that stagnant water is something that any homeowner can do. The crotch of the tree, you’re not going to rip the tree up and tip it over and then put it back in place, but you can get guzzlers, hand-powered guzzlers that actually have a hose on one end and hose on the other end. You give them a little pump and that’s going to pump out the stagnant water from those harder to flip around areas. That might be useful, too, for the larger stone, heavier bird baths and things like that. So, there are definitely things you can do with not a lot of additional resources. Even the guzzler, I’ve seen the nice guzzlers are 50 bucks, and to keep the mosquitoes suppressed in your yard to a point where you can use your yard, that’s an easy thing to do, I would say.

Maintaining Mosquito Control

John: What if I do want to have some of the things, like I wanted to have a bird bath in the backyard, do I just need to be changing that water out every couple of days or something like that?

Zack:  Yeah, I’d say every week. A week to 10 days would be long enough for mosquitoes to start to breed in there, so about that period of time. A full life cycle would really be about 21, 22 days. But if you can stay on top of them for every week and a half, just hose out the mosquito . . . the mosquito bath . . . the bird bath, and just to keep things fresh and moving. You can do that. In my yard, I have a vernal pool on one side and then a pool on the other side that’s almost a vernal pool, but it has a little stream that goes out. So, we get the black flies breeding in the moving stream, as well. It’s great. We have everything in here.

Those areas like that are tougher to control. If it’s on state land or shared land, then one of these governmental mosquito protection agencies or groups might be able to come out and do something with those areas. I’ve seen communities get together. Communities who live around the lakes, they’ll come together and they’ll actually put little fountains, little bubblers at strategic points in the lake just to keep the water moving. If the water doesn’t stay still and stagnant, the mosquitoes aren’t going to breed in there. So, there’s a lot of things you can do. Even things that might seem out of your control, as long as you can keep the water moving, you’ll have a pretty good success rate.

Keeping leaf litter and other organic litter down, that’s going to be a big thing, too. Basically, if your house looks pristine, then you’re going to have a lot fewer pest issues. So, I have the pools around my house, but I also have a lot of trees and a lot of oak trees drop their leaves. The deciduous trees drop their leaves every year. I have to really make an effort to stir up those leaves at the very least or try to keep them out of there, keep them away from the house as much as possible. Those little leaves that curl up, they can hold onto enough water to breed mosquitoes as well.

Spraying for Mosquito Prevention

John: Wow. Interesting. I’ve heard of spraying for mosquitoes and maybe every once in a while, you might see a truck driving through the town and it’s spraying the trees and things like that. Does that kind of spraying work and is that something that I should look into?

Zack:  It certainly can work. There’s a lot of companies, a lot of individuals . . . especially in Massachusetts, it’s easier to get into that kind of program because the licensing is a little bit more open here than in New Hampshire. There’s a lot of those companies, whether they’re landscape companies, pest control companies, mosquito-specific companies, who do the spraying, and a lot of it comes down to the technician and then the management above them kind of saying either, “Do a good job,” or, “Hey, we’re just all about production, get it done quickly,” and how mindful they are about educating the customer on other steps that they should do.

If you spray the house for mosquitoes, spray around the yard and the trees, but you don’t tip over the bird bath, then you’re still going to have mosquitoes. Those sprays, whether it’s your organic sprays, the essential oils, mixing in an insect growth regulator is really effective against mosquitoes, or a more conventional treatment, we kind of like the idea of doing a cross between a conventional insecticide with insect growth regulators and kind of cycling through the more organic essential oil with insect growth regulators, some combination in there to keep the toxicity relatively low, but also keep it effective. It’s still about suppression rather than elimination. If your area’s really rough and you’ve done all the hard work of closing up the areas where the water is building up and you’ve really put in a good honest effort to do that, then mosquito spraying can certainly go a long way to suppressing the population. You might not be able to just get rid of [them] by flipping over the bird bath.

Do Bug Zappers Work to Control Mosquitoes?

John: Right, right. And then finally, when I was a kid, my parents had a house on lake up in New Hampshire, and the people across the street from us had one of those old bug zappers that attracted the flies and mosquitoes and things like that. All night long, it would just be going, zapping them. I haven’t seen those around in years. Do people still have those? Do they work or what?

Zack:  Some people still have those. I I haven’t used mine in a few years, but I bought one of those just a few years ago. And they work okay, but it’s a very small area that they’re going to actually attract the mosquitoes, and a lot of folks, they use the same one year after year after year. And what the mosquitoes are attracted to is the UV light that those emit to bring them right to it to get zapped. They definitely don’t want to use those over the grill or else you’re going to be eating mosquito burgers all night. But they can be effective in small, small areas.

Another thing would be something with a CO2 attractant that brings them in. You see them with the propane tanks, the little tent on top. Those are somewhat effective as well, but with any tool, it’s more about how to use it than what the tool is. You can get the zappers, the mosquito attractants with the CO2, with the propane tanks. You can do the spraying, but again, going back to that bird feeder, going back to that tire, going back to any place that’s going to collect water, if you’re not doing that kind of basic hard work to eliminate the source material, then you’re still going to be fighting an uphill battle.

John: All right, that’s great advice, Zack. Thanks again for speaking with me today.

Zack:  My pleasure.

John: And for more information, you can visit the Colonial Pest Control website at colonialpest.com or call 1-800-525-8084. That’s 1-800-525-8084.

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