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An Illinois River Almanac

Jason Haupt's Energy and Environment Blog

Mosquitos


There are lots of reasons to hate mosquitoes. For most people it is the itching that accompanies the bite, but there are health reasons to hate them too. In February of this year the news began to talk about the Zika virus and its dangers. Although Zika is in the news, mosquitoes carry a number of other diseases that should be considered. Illinois has had very few cases of Zika and none of them came from bites originating in Illinois. According to WHO and the Illinois Department of Public Health, controlling contact with mosquitoes is one of the most effective ways of reducing your risk of contracting a mosquito-borne disease.

Mosquitoes are most active at night and do not like cool weather. Most species of mosquitoes are active when the nighttime temperatures do not fall below 50 degrees. Different species of mosquitoes have different winter survival strategies, but many of the indicators for them to hatch require average water temperatures to rise above a specific temperature.

Here are a few suggestions on controlling mosquitoes in your yard:

  • Personal Protection - This is the most effective way of keeping mosquitoes from biting you. Wearing long sleeves and long pants works well until the weather makes that restrictive. Treating your clothes with chemicals is an effective way, improving the protection of your clothes. Using bug sprays is also very effective; though this is the most effective way of keeping mosquitoes away from you, not everyone likes this option. For one you cannot use it on young children, and not everyone wants to spray themselves with chemicals. If you are open to this option, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, EPA and Illinois Dep. of Public Health have the following recommendations for chemicals to use. DEET is the most effective chemical to use. Research has shown that concentrations between 20 and 40% are effective for up to four hours and 40% concentrations were effective for up to six hours. Products that contain Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) are effective as well. Picaridin and IR3535, found in products like Skin so Soft, are also effective though nothing works as well as DEET.
  • Remove breeding habitat- Mosquitoes lay their eggs in water and removing the breeding habitat reduces the ability of one mosquito turning into a swarm. Very little water is needed for mosquitoes to breed. They can breed in as little as ½ inch of water. Empty and scrub out anything that holds water at least once a week. Keep buckets and anything else that could hold water covered or turned over to prevent them from becoming breeding areas.
  • Chemical Warfare - There are lots of chemicals out there, and recently there have been a number of advertisements for having your yards treated by a professional. Though these treatments are effective, the species that is being treated for is usually very specific to the chemicals. The best way to chemically control mosquitoes is to kill the larva before they hatch.
  • "Natural" Options- Using things like plants, plant extracts, or natural predators are an option for controlling mosquitoes around your yard. This is one of the least predictable methods of controlling mosquitos, as attracting the desirable animals can be difficult. Also, plants and plant extracts are not as effective as other methods as they have limited reach.

 



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