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Flowers, Fruits, and Frass

Local and statewide information on a variety of current topics for home gardeners and market growers.

Avoid mosquitoes this summer

Posted by Kelly Allsup - Bugs

Avoid mosquito bites this summer with tips from University of Illinois Extension
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – Nothing will ruin your summer barbecues, evening gardening tasks or strolls through the woods like the feared mosquito. "It doesn't take more than one bite to get me running into the house, leaving the fun behind," University of Illinois Horticulture Extension Educator Kelly Allsup admits.
"Even as an advocator of pollinators and lover of the creepy crawly, I cannot handle when the female mosquito decides she wants to use my blood to help her develop eggs." (Males sustain themselves on nectar and do not bite.)Mosquitoes have been in the news a lot lately with the spread of Zika virus in the United States.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, "No local mosquito-borne Zika virus disease cases have been reported in US states, but lab tests have confirmed Zika virus in travelers returning to the United States. These travelers have gotten the virus from mosquito bites, and some non-travelers have gotten Zika through sex with a traveler." Illinois has had very few cases of Zika (with none of them coming from bites in Illinois), but the state has already taken steps to address the Zika virus concern. The Illinois Department of Public Health is currently taking samples, concentrating on the lower third of the state where the primary mosquito vector is most likely to occur.
University of Illinois Extension Entomologist Phil Nixon reported that attendance doubled at this year's Mosquito Clinic for pesticide applicators in the state. However, he said treating the adult mosquito is not as effective in controlling the population as treating the larvae. He predicts more spraying will occur to control adult mosquitoes throughout the state, but says the chemical rates used to kill them will be low and may not have an adverse impact on other insects.
Chemicals used to treat mosquitoes may be pyrethroids, insect growth regulators and Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis. With recent outbreaks, this leaves Illinoisans wondering if there will be a local spread of the disease and what they can do to protect their families.Nixon says Aedes aegypti, yellow fever mosquito, are the ones most likely to transmit the Zika virus and have not been detected in Illinois. These are susceptible to freezing and cannot survive the winter. Nevertheless, the mosquitoes could enter the state and produce several generations this summer, increasing the need for homeowners to exercise smart mosquito control. The more common Aedes albopictus, Asian tiger mosquito, that we see in central and northern Illinois bite during the day and can transmit the virus, but are not as effective in doing so as Aedes aegypti. University of Illinois Extension recommends taking the following steps to protect yourself from mosquito bites:

Controlling Mosquitoes in the Backyard
1."The number one precaution a homeowner should take to reduce the number of mosquitoes is to remove the areas in your yard that could be possible breeding habitats," according to Nixon. As little as half an inch of standing water can be ideal breeding habitat for mosquitoes. Abandoned swimming pools can be large breeding areas and are common areas of concern. Nixon suggests emptying and cleaning anything that holds water every week. Homeowners can use mosquito dunks containing Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis to control larvae in unscreened rain barrels. Don't forget to clean the gutters as well.
2.Add goldfish and bait minnows to garden ponds. Fish should be added each spring to shallow ponds as fish are unlikely to survive the winter unless the water is at least 39 inches deep.
3.Forget bug zappers. Mosquitoes killed by them are usually males and spent females that have already laid their eggs. Many other good bugs may be killed instead.
4.Citronella candles can be somewhat effective if used in large numbers on calm days. Citronella scented geranium plants are not effective because the essential oils of the leaves are not released into the air.
Personal Protection
1.Wear light colored clothes, long-sleeved shirts and long pants when possible. Mosquitoes are attracted to dark objects.
2.Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are looking for a meal. Mosquitoes tend to bite at night. However, the Asian tiger mosquito will bite during the day.
3.Use personal bug sprays. The Illinois Department of Public Health recommends DEET as the most effective chemical to use to combat mosquitoes. DEET is the abbreviated name for N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamid, such as OFF or Cutters. DEET in concentration of forty percent is effective up to four to six hours. DEET confuses the mosquito and blocks the females' ability to detect the carbon dioxide, heat, moisture and human sweat. This product should be sprayed liberally on open skin and should not be used on children less than two years old. A ten percent DEET product should be used on children and will last around two hours. University of Illinois Horticulture Extension Educator Sandy Mason reports that natural repellents containing essential oils like citronella are not as long-lasting as DEET. They may only be effective for 20 to 30 minutes and have shown to be poor performers in preventing mosquito bites. However, according to recent consumer reports, oil of lemon eucalyptus at thirty percent showed higher effectiveness and lasting more than seven hours, making it more effective than other natural products.
4.Use a fan in your outdoor living space. Mosquitoes are weak flyers, so a circulating fan would prevent them from landing and biting.
5.Make sure window screens are in good shape to prevent mosquitoes from invading the home.

For more information about preventing mosquito bites, please contact Kelly Allsup, Extension educator, horticulture, at kallsup@illinois.eduor contact your local Extension office. Universityof Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment.

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