During the course of the year, multiple opportunities exist to reduce the mosquito population without the use of pesticides. Often, these environmental controls are more effective than pesticide and can be accomplished by all citizens in the community.
Mosquitoes need water to reproduce; therefore most techniques to prevent mosquitoes are also aimed at preventing the creation of stagnant water.
Some common items found to hold water include: waste tires, children’s toys, bird baths and gutters. Tasks such as emptying a bird bath once a week or cleaning gutters to ensure proper flow can help prevent mosquitoes from reproducing. Improving the drainage in your yard can also reduce areas for mosquitoes to reproduce. If a tile is broken and creating ponding of water on the surface, fixing the tile can also aid in the mosquito prevention effort.
For larger bodies of water, such as a pond, the empty-and-drain method may not be feasible. The best way to prevent mosquito reproduction in ponds is by installing an aerator or fountain. Not only does a fountain provide an aesthetic effect, it also agitates the water which interrupts the life cycle of a mosquito. It is also helpful to reduce vegetation in and around ponds. Increased vegetation allows for areas of water to become stagnant. Finally, adding more fish, such as bluegills, to a pond will help reduce mosquitoes because they actively consume mosquito larvae.
While in your home, make sure the structure is protected. Replace screens in windows or doors where they may be damaged or missing. Avoid outdoor activities at times when mosquitoes are most active, typically at dusk. If weather permits, wearing long sleeves and light colors will aid in your prevention efforts. Additionally, yellow “bug” lights installed outside, rather than normal lights, tend to attract fewer insects.
It is important to remember that bat boxes are not effective at reducing the mosquito population as mosquitoes are not the meal of choice for bats. Given the option, a bat will choose larger insects as they provide more food for the bat. Studies have shown mosquitoes make up less than 2 percent of a bat’s diet. Additionally, bats are a natural carrier of the deadly rabies virus, a disease — if left untreated — that is nearly 100 percent fatal in humans. For these reasons, bat boxes are not considered an effective means to reduce mosquito populations and are not recommended.
For more information about mosquitoes and the health district’s efforts, visit DelawareHealth.org and look for the health district’s #MosquitoMonday posts on social media.
Adam Howard is the Delaware General Health District’s residential services unit manager.