For Release May 13, 2003
Mosquitoes Are A Manageable Risk
by Chuck Otte, Geary County Extension Agent
Mosquitoes are a common summer resident across Kansas. Recent events, primarily the explosive movement of the West Nile Virus across the country, has greatly heightened many residentís awareness of mosquitoes. There are approximately 50 different species of mosquitoes in Kansas. Each species has their preferred habitat and breeding sites. The number of mosquitoes we see any year is quite dependent on rainfall and to a great extent to how we affect the potential breeding sites around our homes.
While there is reason for some concern over West Nile Virus, we need to keep in mind that there are other mosquito borne diseases in Kansas, including several different types of encephalitis. So protecting yourself from mosquito bites should not be a new health concern. Unfortunately, most people approach this subject from the wrong angle. Most homeowners want to control adult mosquitoes. Attempting to control adult mosquitoes is the poorest way to prevent problems. The first steps should be controlling breeding sites and then personal protection to prevent mosquito bites.
Most mosquitoes like to breed in shallow stagnant water. It doesnít take much water or much time to bring around another generation of mosquitoes. How much time? In the heat of summer it can take as little as one week to have a new generation of adult mosquitoes. How much water? An old tire with water in it can serve as a mosquito nursery. Empty cans, clogged rain gutters, bird baths, pet water dishes, even standing water in the saucers of flower pots can be adequate to raise a brood of skeeters! Large bodies of water, especially with lots of wave action, are not a good place to raise mosquitoes. While there are mosquitoes in marshes and other wetlands, these arenít often good mosquito nurseries either, because of all the predators.
So the first step is to make sure that you have no water around your property that isnít changed at least once a week. If you have shallow standing water that canít be drained, then there are numerous biological larval mosquito control products available. Toss these into the water and they will be very effective at controlling mosquito larvae.
For personal protection you can use repellents or you can use avoidance. Avoid being in areas that have a lot of mosquitoes when they are active, mainly dusk and dawn, wear long sleeved shirts and pants, and use approved repellents. While there are a lot of claims for products repelling mosquitoes, extensive research has shown that citronella, many natural products, electronic devices, bug zappers, wrist bands and moisturizing lotions simply do not work. Products containing DEET offered the best control. Look for products containing 20 to 30% DEET. Higher concentrations did not offer longer control. Read and follow all label directions for frequency of re-application and then wash thoroughly upon returning indoors. There is one product called Bite Blocker for Kids that has a 2% soy oil active ingredient that will provide about 90 minutes of protection that would serve as a good alternative to DEET products.
Trying to control adult mosquitoes is very ineffective. These attempts provide high visibility with very poor results. You will be seeing a lot of homeowner products for controlling adult mosquitoes for sale this year, just remember that your best bet is to control mosquito breeding sites instead! The Extension Office has a new bulletin on mosquitoes and West Nile Virus. They are free and a copy can be picked up at the Extension Office at 119 East 9th Street in Junction City.
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