Fending off mosquitoes

The wet conditions already experienced this spring have made it nearly impossible to enjoy the outdoors due to the number of mosquitoes.

The wet conditions already experienced this spring have made it nearly impossible to enjoy the outdoors due to the number of mosquitoes.

The last week of wet conditions will ensure that the mosquito population breeds and multiplies. One of the easiest ways to control insects is to disrupt their life cycle.

As moisture or water is needed for the eggs to hatch into larvae it is helpful to empty all still or standing water.

Cities and municipalities lace standing water with bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, a dead spore, that destroys the larva’s digestive system when it is eaten. BTI is relatively inexpensive but not practical for most homeowners as it is usually dropped in ponds and puddles for one to two miles around the targeted area.

Timing is very important as the spore is only effective when the insect is in the larva stage. As the larvae hatch after every rain it is an ongoing process. BTI is fairly selective and doesn’t harm other species.

Luring predators to the garden can cut down on the mosquito population. Bats, dragonflies and some types of birds feed heavily on the local mosquito population.

In the case of bats it can be as easy as adding a bat house to the yard. Birds are attracted to yards that provide food, water and shelter. Each species can have slightly different requirements meaning that it is good to do some research before expecting birds to appear.

A good source of information on attracting beneficial wildlife into the yard is NatureScape Alberta which was written by Myna Pearman and Ted Pike.

Large bodies of water can be stocked with killfish, minnows and guppies which will eat mosquito larvae.

There are numerous insect deterrents on the market with some being more effective than others.

Insect zappers that were popular in the 80’s have proven ineffective for mosquitoes. The light attracted all insects and killed them.

The newest research suggests that devices that burn propane mixed with an insect attractant can be effective. Propane burners produce carbon dioxide, moisture and heat. When an appropriate scent is added, the mosquitoes are drawn towards the flame and then sucked into an area where they can not escape. Effectiveness is dependent on the number of mosquitoes and the size of the area.

Citronella candles and oil are sold as mosquito deterrents. How many candles or how much oil is needed to be effective is in debate. Other natural oils are also considered effective. Eucalyptus, cinnamon, castor, rosemary, lemongrass, cedar, peppermint, or clove are all commonly cited as effective mosquito repellents. While they will repel some of the insects, do not expect them to repel all mosquitoes. Take care when using home-grown recipes or ones that are found on the Internet as they have not been tested and some can be harmful.

In the case of mosquitoes it might be best to avoid things and areas that they find attractive. Mosquitoes are attracted to dark clothing so wear light colours. Mosquitoes are often attracted to fruity smells so avoid scented products. They are also attracted to lactic acid and carbon dioxide which the body gives off with exercise .

Avoid times and places that are known to harbour mosquitoes. Stay indoors in the early morning or evening unless the air is cool enough to discourage the insects.

During the day mosquitoes are usually found in the shade or long grass.

For those that want to enjoy the outdoors anytime, purchase bug clothes. They are mesh jackets, pants, and head gear, that block the mosquitoes from coming in contact with the body. They are relatively inexpensive and effective.

Insect repellents that contain DEET are effective but not recommended for children under 12. There is information on the positive and negative effects of this chemical and it is up to the individual if they want to use it or not.

At present time, the climate is perfect for hatching mosquitoes and it is virtually impossible not to get bitten while enjoying the outdoors.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist and educator living in Rocky Mountain House. You can contact her at your_garden@hotmail.com