Controlling Mosquitos Starts at Home
Submitted by Darlene Wayt, Lorraine Cherry and Traci Riley
Agreement is a wonderful thing. When it comes to mosquito control, reliable sources (including universities like Texas A&M, public health departments of Texas cities and counties, and even several private companies selling mosquito control products) pretty much agree on two things: To control mosquitoes, it is essential to 1) eliminate standing water on or near your property and 2) use personal repellent(s).
Low areas of a lawn, uneven driveways and of course the curbs in front of our houses are some obvious, highly visible places for water to accumulate and stick around too long; low areas can be filled or drained, soil can be aerated and curb or sidewalk water can be swept away. However, less than half a cup of water can be a breeding area for hundreds to thousands of mosquitoes. So check, empty, and clean the smaller, less obvious outdoor water containers like pet water bowls, pans, the area underneath outdoor potted plants, bird baths, and pool covers. Also, overturn buckets, sprinkling cans, and wheelbarrows so that water can’t collect there.
Pay close to attention to front and back lawns and yards. Drain any standing water around your house. Adjust your sprinkler system’s timer periodically so that it runs efficiently in terms of frequency and duration of watering so as not to contribute to standing water when lawns are saturated from a heavy rain. Check sprinkler heads, replacing broken ones, and aerate soil so that water is absorbed and doesn’t just run and puddle on the sidewalk or curb. Or, water manually only when and where needed.
Regarding personal repellents applied to the skin: There’s a ton of them and there're tons of websites about them. For starters, read the labels on these products. To research further, go online and search keywords like “conventional repellents” to find out about DEET and picaridin, and “biopesticide repellents” to find out about repellents that contain synthetic versions of natural materials. Personal repellents can also include light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, hats, screens, and netting. The best advice out there is to research these products, take your personal situation into consideration - pregnant? allergies? asthma? - and make an informed decision.
Regarding public area-wide pest control spraying: Harris County does not spray for pest control. Harris County sprays for disease control. As of August 15, the Timbergram’s deadline, 77008 is negative for any of the mosquito-related diseases for which Harris County tests; therefore Harris County is not doing any disease control spraying in our area. Google “Harris County Mosquito Control Service” and click on “Current Disease Activity,” and you will find a disease/zip code chart and also a map showing where disease control spraying is occurring. These are updated almost daily. Or call Harris County, 713-440-4800, and speak to a rep about mosquito control.
Yep, agreement sure was nice. On the more controversial side: Private outdoor area-wide pest control spraying and timed release insecticide misting systems. The websites of public consumer protection organizations have a lot of information about these forms of mosquito control.
Some commonly mentioned concerns and cautions, especially for automated applications, are:
pesticide exposure to pets, birds, children, elderly, anyone with a health condition that could be exacerbated by pesticide inhalation
negative impact on beneficial insect populations and non-target organisms (e.g., bees, butterflies, dragonflies, etc.)
overuse, unnecessary use, and needless applications
lack of efficacy data uncontrolled off-site drift target pests becoming resistant.
Let’s circle back to what every expert, every site and every public and private organization concerned with mosquito control agrees with – get rid of standing water. This is an essential to controlling mosquitoes that every homeowner can do at no cost whatsoever.
Main Sources: www.cdc.gov, click on Mosquito Control: You Have Options www.epa.gov, click on Science & Technology www.mosquito.org http://publichealth.harriscountytx.gov ABC TV News Report, 7-30-16, Zika Virus Arrives in Florida