There is a State Farm commercial we like from a few years ago, where a rather homely gentleman has a date with an attractive young lady, partly because he’s a French model. She believes that you can’t put anything on the internet that isn’t true. In our industry we run into this as well, and an article from earlier this month really caught our eye. We thought we’d take some time to run through its points and give an appraisal. It comes from The Virginian-Pilot.
Nothing ruins outdoor summer fun like swarms of mosquitoes. Not only are they pesky and annoying, but they also have the potential to spread several diseases, including Zika, encephalitis, West Nile virus and canine heartworms – not to mention yellow fever, which killed thousands of people in an 1855 Norfolk outbreak, and malaria. As scary as this sounds, there are, fortunately, some simple means to control this pest.
We agree with the above. And while this article is focused on Virginia, at least 14 counties in Texas have seen West Nile cases in 2017.
As with many things, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to mosquito control. Females – the males don’t bite – need to secure a blood meal prior to laying their eggs. Once they have fed, they then search for stagnant or sluggish water where they will lay their eggs. The eggs hatch into larvae, then leave the water when they mature into adults, only to repeat the cycle.
To keep this from happening around your home, make sure anything that could hold water is emptied (cans, buckets, discarded tires, tarps and tree cavities for example). Keep your gutters clean, and change the water daily in pet bowls and bird baths. Small boats, canoes and kayaks should be stored upside down or away from anywhere rainwater might collect. If you have a water garden, the fish will do a thorough job of eating the larvae. For hard-to-control areas, or in areas without fish, use mosquito dunks. These contain a naturally occurring, safe-to-use bacterium (Bacillus thuringiensis, aka Bt), which kills the larvae.
This is a solid explanation of the mosquito lifecycle. In addition, a few years ago, during the real estate crash in Las Vegas, there was a significant up-tick in the mosquito population because of pools in homes that had been foreclosed upon. In San Antonio, we tend to have wet Springs, and May and June see a VERY aggressive mosquito population.
As for personal protection, make sure you wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing, as mosquitoes are attracted to dark colors and can bite through tight clothes. It is also recommended to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, but who does that in July in Virginia?
Not just Virginia…average July temperature in San Antonio is 95 degrees. And we’re not sure they have that high enough!
To protect exposed skin, there are many sprays on the market. The most common, and the most effective, contain the chemical DEET, which is what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends. Despite some anecdotal stories, this product is safe to use if directions are followed. However, if you would rather use a more natural product, several plant-based sprays are available, with the most effective containing oil of lemon eucalyptus. Even though they are natural, you still want to follow the label precautions, as some could be toxic if ingested.
Temporary, sometimes effective, and getting away from the premise of the article for “a more natural approach.”
To control adult mosquitoes in the larger environment, there are several companies that will spray your yard with pyrethroids. These chemicals are synthetic versions of pyrethrin, a naturally occurring compound derived from a species of chrysanthemum. Unfortunately, pyrethroids are indiscriminate insecticides, and will just as easily kill native pollinators and other beneficial insects as they will mosquitoes. An alternative would be to install mosquito traps, a relatively new technology that uses propane to create heat and carbon dioxide, combined with other attractants to mimic mammal activity, thus attracting mosquitoes. Once they are lured in, a vacuum pulls them out of the air into a trap where they die from desiccation. These devices show promise, but, so far, reviews have been mixed.
This was the section that really caught our attention, everything else was a prelude. Mosquito Nix uses pyrethrum, permethrin, or essential oils as the active ingredients in our mosquito misting systems. This paragraph paints an incomplete picture. Our systems are designed to spray at times when beneficial insects are least active, AND they have no residual effect. According to Jeremy Tarver, Sales Manager at Mosquito Nix San Antonio, “If a dragon fly is sitting on the nozzle when the spray begins, it will have a bad day. But if that dragonfly were to come to the yard after the spraying is complete, it will be fine.” There is no more effective, safe and efficient way to protect your yard than one of our misting systems.
Also, several plants have shown to be somewhat effective at repelling mosquitoes. One of the best is also one of our showiest native shrubs. American beautyberry has pale lavender flowers in summer, followed by bright showy purple fruit in autumn, and its insect-repelling properties are being studied by a research arm of the USDA.
We think the phrase “somewhat effective” is telling here.
Other plants known for their aromatic properties have also been shown to repel mosquitoes. Lemon balm, scented geraniums, rosemary, basil, peppermint, catnip, catmint and lavender can all be concentrated near patios and porches where their combined affect may help keep mosquitoes at bay. At the very least, it will look nice and make your garden smell good.
At this point, we think the author lost steam. We agree that including the plants listed above will look nice and make your garden smell good, they just won’t prevent any of the diseases that make us worry about mosquitos. When in doubt, contact an expert at [email protected] or 210-699-7700.