For Release June 1, 1999

The Bugs of Summer

by Chuck Otte, Geary County Extension Agent

Astronomically speaking, summer doesn’t begin until we hit the summer solstice on June 21st. But Memorial Day is over, school’s out and the calendar says June, so it’s summer! Summer brings long lazy days, heat, humidity, mowing lawns and bugs.

Oh, there are a lot of bugs that "bug" us during the summer including flies, gnats, black flies, no-see-ums, bees and wasps. But if you ask most people what insects bug them during the summer and it’ll probably come down to the "big three", mosquitoes, ticks and chiggers. Right now all three are active, two are numerous and the chiggers are really starting to kick in so look out!

Other than sequestering yourself inside there is no way to completely avoid these critters. And while spraying your yard may reduce ticks and chiggers, and maybe mosquitoes to a small degree, you simply can not eliminate them from your local environment. You have to depend on an awareness of each ones activities and then use personal protection and/or avoidance.

With all the rain and mild temperatures we have a very healthy mosquito population. And, until the weather dries up some, it’s probably going to get worse. Spraying chemicals around the yard and fogging the entire neighborhood has seldom done much good for mosquitoes. Mosquitoes breed in quiet shallow pools of water. In just a few days they can go from egg to blood sucker so anything you can do to make sure you don’t have standing water will help reduce the population.

Spraying water with chemicals is not very effective. There are biological controls that can be added to standing water that are effective if water can’t be drained. During the day or when it is windy mosquitoes rest in tall vegetation, trees and shrubs. If you keep grass mowed to a proper height it will help minimize resting habitat. Spraying your trees and shrubs may help knock some down, but since mosquitoes will feed in a several hundred yard radius the difference may not be noticeable.

The bug lights that are often sold do very little damage to mosquito populations since the electric grids are too big. And while Purple Martins eat a lot of insects, they generally feed during the day and at an elevation above 35 feet. Mosquitoes are most active at night and generally fly below 35 feet. Bats are a much more effective predator of mosquitoes and we do have quite a few bats in the area, just not nearly enough!

Tick numbers are very high right now also. We primarily have the Lone Star Tick and the American Dog Tick. Both will feed on humans and can carry several diseases. While we are at very low risk for Lyme Disease around here there are several other tick borne diseases that you need to be aware of and any tick bite should be monitored closely. We have an excellent bulletin on ticks (and chiggers) at the Extension Office so stop by and pick them up.

Chiggers, like ticks and mosquitoes, love tall grass and are very numerous. Chiggers are a mite (like ticks) and with the exception of the one life stage when they bite us, they feed on plants. Chiggers are small enough to pass right through the weave of most fabrics.

You can protect yourself from all three with insect repellents. While citronella containing products may offer some protection, the DEET based products are very effective. Use products containing 35% DEET or less, follow the directions and DO NOT apply more or more often than directed, especially on children. Once inside wash off all insect repellent. There are also products containing synthetic pyrethroids that can be applied to clothing that are very good and very long lasting. If it’s summer we’ll have insects, but with a little protection you can still enjoy the great outdoors!


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