FILE - Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are seen inside Oxitec laboratory in Campinas, Brazil, February 2, 2016. (REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker/File Photo)
Almost everyone who spends time outdoors has experienced mosquitoes. These bloodsucking insects give itchy bites and can spread disease.
Mosquitoes can spread viruses like West Nile, Zika, dengue and malaria. A 2021 report from the World Health Organization estimated that in 2020 there were 241 million malaria cases and 627,000 malaria deaths worldwide.
But there are things people can do to cut down on mosquitoes. You can make it harder for them to reproduce. And you can protect yourself.
Jessica Damiano is a gardening expert. She writes about outdoor living for the Associated Press. In a recent story, Damiano said the best control is prevention. In that story, she gave suggestions on how to cut mosquito populations where you live.
It may seem difficult to avoid mosquitoes. Some areas of the world are densely populated with them. People who live near bodies of water may experience more mosquitoes. But there are several measures you can take to reduce their numbers.
Mosquitoes need less than a centimeter of water to lay eggs. A female can lay hundreds of eggs at a time. So, check your property for standing water. Water can easily collect in small containers – a child’s toy, a trash can lid, or a cooking pot.
Get rid of standing water, even if the amount seems small. Make holes in the bottoms of containers that can hold unwanted water.
Other sources of water such as in ponds and bird baths can be treated with chemicals.
Damiano suggests a bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis or Bti for short. The bacterium is a safe and effective way to kill mosquito larvae. Several kinds of Bti are available. Each target different insects. So be sure to buy the one to target mosquitoes.
Bti also comes in several forms, including ring-shaped products called “Mosquito Dunks.” These rings float in water and offer 30 days of protection. Experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say mosquito dunks “…will not harm people, pets and other animals,” and other insects, including honeybees.
You also can make your own mosquito trap. Put a handful of straw, hay, or grass cuttings into a dark-colored container filled with water. Let it sit for one to two days. Then add one mosquito dunk.
If you have many mosquitoes, place several containers around the area. Decomposing organic matter will attract the insects. They will lay eggs on the treated water. Every 30 days, change the water and add new chemicals to stop future generations of mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes also like overgrown plants. Keep your yard organized. Do not let plants grow too tall.
Running a fan at high speed will reduce mosquito activity. It works by simply blowing the insects away. Also, every time we breathe out, carbon dioxide from our breath attracts mosquitos. A fan can help get rid of our carbon dioxide quickly.
Damiano suggests avoiding chemical poison sprays. These can threaten helpful insects. These chemicals, she warns, only control a small part of the adult mosquito population. Also, she said, insect poisons need to be used several times in a season to work effectively.
Damiano says that so-called “mosquito plants” sold as mosquito repellents contain oils or chemicals that repel mosquitoes. But the plants do not keep mosquitoes away unless those chemical compounds are released, usually by crushing the leaves. Just having such a plant around will not help.
Some studies claim that citronella and lemongrass oil may provide some protection. But Damiano thinks this has not yet been proven. They may simply hide human scent.
There are other things you can do to protect yourself. Put screens in your doors and windows or keep them closed. Wear long clothing. And cut down on time spent outdoors between the early evening and the early morning. Mosquitoes are most active during that time.
Are mosquitoes all bad?
On the hunt to kill mosquitoes, you may ask yourself if they serve some purpose. Mosquitoes are pollinators, meaning they help some plants reproduce. And they are food for some animals, especially birds and bats. Also, some fish and turtles eat mosquito larvae. But Damiano says that getting rid of mosquitoes where you live will not harm the environment.
Words in This Story
itchy – adj. a feeling of wanting to scratch or rub skin because of an unpleasant feeling on it
larvae – n. a young wingless form (as a grub or caterpillar) of many insects that hatches from an egg
decompose –v. the natural process of slowly breaking down into simpler materials
attract –v. to cause something to come to a place
spray – n. liquid that is forced out from a container to cover a small area
repellent – n. a substance used to keep something away
screen – n. a woven material that is held together by wood or metal on the sides which is placed in windows to prevent insects from entering
pollinator – n. an animal, often an insect, that spreads pollen from plant to plant permitting plants to produce seeds