Mosquitoes have inhabited the earth for millions of years. There are more than 3,000 different species of mosquitoes. However, it is only the female mosquitoes that bite. The females need blood to nourish their eggs. And they lay a lot of eggs. Female mosquitoes lay between 100 to 300 eggs at a time and an average of 1,000 to 3,000 eggs during their lifespan. The female mosquito will lay her eggs anywhere there is standing, stagnant water.
The eggs then hatch into an aquatic organism known as a mosquito larva. The mosquito larvae are wingless, legless and wormlike in appearance. The larvae skirt and scurry about in the water as they shoot to the surface of the water to obtain oxygen and dive to the bottom to find food. They feed off of organic matter in the water and grow rapidly at this stage. The larva then sheds its skin and molts becoming a pupa. The pupa lives in the water until it becomes an adult with its legs, wings and other adult features now intact. This whole process takes place in 4 to 7 days.
Killing Mosquito Larvae in the Water
The first line of defense in reducing the mosquito population around you is to eliminate breeding areas for them. These include eliminating areas around your home that contain water. It is easy to dump out flowerpots and clean the gutters of your house. However, some of other areas might be hard to eliminate like ponds. Ponds can be an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes. Many people don’t like to kill mosquitoes and want other ways to protect themselves from the mosquito bites. The best way for them is to use a good mosquito repellent that last long. We will be discussing more about how to choose a mosquito repellent with DEET later in this article.
There are products you can introduce to bodies of water to help reduce the mosquito population. There are biological products on the market that contain Bacillus thuringiensis bacteria (Bti), which feed on mosquito larvae. Small granules containing the Bti bacteria are spread on the water surface. Bti can be applied in different forms. There are larvicide granules that can be added to the water. They gradually settle in the water where they are eaten by mosquito larvae. The granular form usually kills within 24 hours. A seven to fourteen day interval between applications is recommended.
There are other devices that float on top of the water and release Bti larvicide. These devices will be effective for approximately 30 days. While floating, they slowly release the larvicide that settles in the water where it is eaten by mosquito larvae. Another non-chemical larvicide that contains mainly mineral oil can be sprayed on the surface of the water. The mineral oil works by suffocating the larvae.
Eat All the Mosquitoes
Mosquitoes are obviously a delicacy reserved for species other than humans! There are certain animals that love eating mosquitoes. In fact there is such a thing as a mosquitofish. This is a fresh water fish that feeds readily on the aquatic larval and pupal stages of mosquitoes. According to some studies, a single mosquito fish can eat up to 50 mosquito larvae in half an hour and a maximum of 168 in an eight-hour period. Introducing mosquito fish to a nearby pond or body of water can help reduce the mosquito population.
Other animals such as frogs, birds, dragonflies, and bats also eat mosquitoes. Here are some ways to increase the population of these animals in your yard or pond area:
- To encourage birds and bats into your yard you can put bird houses and bat boxes on your lawn or in your backyard.
- You can attract dragonflies and other mosquito-eating insects by growing plants such as cattails and bulrushes.
- Including dense shrubs and brush into your landscaping often provides a habitat for birds and mosquito-eating insects.
- If you want to introduce frogs into your pond area than you need to avoid the mosquitofish, which eat frog eggs and tadpoles.
Do Bug Zappers Work?
While bug zappers kill insects they are not always the insects you want killed. Bug zapper, more formally known as an electronic insect-control system or electrical-discharge insect-control system, lures bugs into it with an ultraviolet light and kills them with electricity. Bug zappers can lure and kill more than 10,000 insects in a single evening. However, these devices do not discriminate when it comes to what kinds of bugs it kills.
Research conducted in 1996 by University of Delaware researchers Timothy Frick and Douglas Tallamy determined that mosquitoes are not attracted to ultraviolet light. The team collected and identified the kills from six bug zappers at various sites throughout suburban Newark, Delaware during the summer of 1994. Of the nearly 14,000 insects that were electrocuted and counted, only 31 (0.22 percent) were mosquitoes and biting gnats. The largest number (6,670, or 48 percent) were midges and harmless, aquatic insects from nearby bodies of water.
The researchers claimed that killing this many harmless insects would disturb nearby ecosystems and that bug zappers are worthless for reducing biting flies, exact a heavy toll on non-target insects and are counterproductive to consumers and the ecosystem.
Pesticides to Kill Mosquitoes
The use of spray pesticides and foggers can work to kill mosquitoes but it is just a temporary fix. These insecticides usually contain the chemicals pyrethrins and malathion. These chemicals wash away and must be applied again.
Although pesticides on the market are approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, there is some controversy as to the long-term effects of these pesticides on humans and wildlife. These pesticides also tend to kill insects other than mosquitoes that may be beneficial.
If you choose to use pesticides to control mosquitoes, it might be a good idea to hire a professional pesticide application business. If you choose to use pesticides in or around your home be sure and follow these tips:
- Read the label and follow all instructions carefully.
- Be sure the product you select is labeled for use on adult mosquitoes or for the site where mosquitoes live.
- Pesticides for mosquito larvae must be applied to water. However, there are special requirements for applying pesticides to waters of the different states.
- If there is a pond, stream, lake or other water body on your property, you may need a permit from the Department of Natural Resources and you may be required to hire a professional pesticide application business. Contact your DNR district office for permit information.
- Check the label for a registration number from the Environmental Protection Agency. This verifies that you are using a legally registered pesticide.
- Only treat your property. Drifting pesticides or over applying sprays or granules onto other properties is against the law.
Mosquito traps are another way to protect you from mosquitoes outdoors without the use of harsh chemicals. These traps can attract mosquitoes in an area as large as 1.5 acres. They attract mosquitoes by emitting a plume of carbon dioxide together with other mosquito attractants such as sugary scents, lactic acid, octenol, warmth, water vapor and sounds. By mimicking a mammal’s scent and outputs, female mosquitoes are drawn toward the trap, where they are typically sucked into a net or holder by an electric fan where they are collected. Continue reading Why Mosquitoes are so dangerous and choosing repellent