RALEIGH — If you have felt stuck with the dinner tab lately while being outdoors it’s not your imagination. The weather’s been just wonderful for mosquitoes.
N.C. State Extension Entomology Specialist Dr. Mike Waldvogel said the equation is a simple one. Relatively mild winter, warm spring with lots of rain and the result is a bumper crop of the little winged blood-suckers.
“It’s a peculiar situation after the droughts we have been through,” said Waldvogel. “If it weren’t for how bad that is on farmers it’s enough to make you pray for drought.” He also said that while a lot of attention in the media has been given to the dangers of West Nile virus (WNV), there are other harmful viruses out there.
Most notable of these, because of the death of two horses elsewhere in the state, is Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE). Both of these mosquito-borne diseases affect humans and horses.
“This can be a debilitating illness,” said Waldvogel. “So far we haven’t had any humans contracting it but we have lost at least two horses in the state.” (Brunswick and Pender counties)
According to Waldvogel, vaccinations are essential to the prevention of the disease in horses. He encouraged equine owners to contact their veterinarians about the vaccine, which is readily available. In addition, owners should limit mosquito exposure through the use of repellents and protective stabling practices, particularly during the late afternoon and evening hours when mosquitoes are especially active.
One important overall practice to help both horses and humans is eliminating standing water, where the insects’ eggs hatch and the larvae develop.
“The mosquitoes have already laid their eggs in areas where water will collect and all they needed was warm weather and rain,” Waldvogel said. “It only takes hours for them to hatch and then in ten days you will see the adults. I think we are going to see this continue into the fall. The problem is that while one homeowner may treat his property for misquotes it’s also how well you’re neighbors have done, mosquitoes do not respect property lines. Mosquito control is a community thing.”
He said the most common culprit in our area is the Asian Tiger Mosquito. Waldvogel strongly recommends what he refers to as the “tip and toss” strategy. This means locating any standing water sources and tipping out the water. He said bird baths should be checked and fresh water should be used to flush out the larvae.
“Anything that fills with water is a breading ground for misquotes,” added Waldvogel. “Controlling them is tough. We’re able to cut them down a little bit but we are never going to get rid of them. Use repellents only on exposed areas of skin, be judicious but don’t over do it.”
“They are out there en force and I think they will be doing very well in the coming weeks,” predicted Waldvogel.
Other tactics homeowners may use to limit mosquito breeding grounds are:
• Drill holes in the bottom, not the sides, of any garbage or recycling containers stored outdoors. Holes on the sides still allow enough water to accumulate in the bottom for mosquitoes to breed.
• Keep gutters clean and unclogged. Be sure downspouts drain properly, without leaving puddles.
• Ornamental ponds should be aerated to keep water moving and discourage mosquitoes from laying eggs. Another method would be to stock the pond with mosquito-eating fish.
Dump anything that holds water twice per week if it has rained. Foot baths, garbage can lids, and pottery all attract breeding mosquitoes. Empty the saucers under your flower pots, and don’t leave water in pet bowls for more than two days.
Adult mosquitoes rest during the day, usually on tall weeds or other vegetation. Make your yard less hospitable to mosquitoes by mowing your lawn regularly, and keep weeds away from your home’s foundation.
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.