Best Practices to Repel Mosquitos

Jun 22, 2022

The promise of warmer temps is a welcome reprieve from bulky clothing and enclosed environments after a cold, foggy, and windy winter. Indeed, warmer temperatures provide the perfect envelope for outdoor activities like backyard BBQs, swimming, and gardening. However, not all is fun and bliss during the warmer months; a vital detail that should not be overlooked is the troublesome mosquitoes that can dampen outdoor activities. In many areas of California, public mosquito and vector control agencies aim to keep mosquito numbers down to tolerable levels all or most of the time.

More than any other insect, mosquitoes are effective vectors (agents that spread diseases) of multiple pathogens (Malaria, Yellow Fever,Zika, among others). Further, the small itching red bump left by a mosquito bite can cause severe skin irritation in humans through an allergy reaction to the mosquito saliva. Additionally, they transmit several diseases and parasites that dogs and horses are very susceptible to (Heartworm, West Nile virus (WNV), and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE)), which have been on the rise over the past few years.

According to San Joaquin County and the Mosquito Vector control district, one critical factor in the proliferation of mosquitoes is water. The most effective control methods are those targeted against the larval stage of the life cycle. In warmer weather, mosquitoes complete a total metamorphosis from egg, larva, pupa, to adult on average in seven to ten days. Water capture structures should be mosquito-proofed by either covering access points to the water with fabric or closing openings with sealants. Also, if not maintained regularly, storm drains, water treatment basins, and wetlands can be places of prolific mosquito production near neighborhoods.

UC Master Gardeners Integrated Pest Management strategies (IPM) offer the following tactics to reduce or eradicate the mosquito population in your community. Keeping fine mesh screen on windows and outdoor in good repair, draining standing water or treating it with a control agent such as Bacillus thuringiensi subspecies israelensis (Bti), incorporating mosquito-eating fish into isolated ponds and neglected swimming pools, and wearing repellent and protective clothing outdoors when mosquitoes are active.

When the mosquito population becomes bothersome, people can protect themselves and others by applying a mosquito repellent. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using products containing active ingredients registered by the U.S. Environmental Agency (EPA) as repellents applied to skin and clothing.
An EPA registration indicates the active ingredients of the repellent have been tested for human safety when used according to the instructions on the label. The CDC currently recommends two types of repellents for skin use: conventional and biopesticide repellent. Conventional repellent includes compounds such as DEET and Picaridin (KBR). Biopesticides repellent are derived from natural materials or synthetic versions of the natural product, such as the synthetic oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE: use only when formulated as a repellent. The EPA does not currently register the pure form of OLE). DEET is the most effective mosquito repellent if you will be out for long periods where mosquitos are abundant. However, DEET is an irritant to some people, and repellents containing high concentrations of DEET can damage synthetic materials such as clothing or plastics. Special low formulations of oil-based mediums that slowly release the compound and limits the absorption throughout the skin are good for children and adults.

Mosquitoes, like all creatures, are attracted to environments that contain the things they need to live, including certain plants. Mosquitoes do not live on blood alone. Only the female bites and feeds the blood to their eggs. Adult mosquitoes eat the nectar of certain plants, such as Taro, papyrus, water lilies, and water hyacinths. Therefore, removing these plants help reduce the mosquito population in your community.

If chemical repellents are not your bag, consider growing garden plants that, according to some experts, help repel mosquitoes naturally due to the scent of their natural oils. However, cultivating these mosquito-repellent plants isn't a standalone way to deter pests. Homeowners need to increase the insect-repelling power of the plant by releasing their essential oils. Either crush them a little or place them into your fireplace or BBQs.

Here are a few plants worth having in the garden that are not only pretty but can help in the constant war against bugs and will help make outdoor activities fun and blissful for everyone. Peppermint, Lemon Balm, Lavender, Catmint, Basil, Mint, Sage, Rosemary, Marigold, Geranium, Mum, Thyme, Eucalyptus,
Hummingbird Mint, Lemongrass, Society Garlic, and Lemon Verbena are all beautiful additions to a garden.

In short, in addition to growing the plants listed above, homeowners should practice the control practices approved and recommended by the Mosquito Vector Control District as well as UC Master Gardeners Integrated Pest Management strategies in their homes and community so that mosquitoes do not get out of hand.

Please follow the links below for more in-depth information about mosquito control in your area.

By Flo Pucci Master Gardener
Author - Master Gardener

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