Mosquitos are one of the least liked insects, especially when they decide to enter or even just surround a property. Discover more about their biology and control.
Biology of Mosquitos
Mosquitos are primitive and small flies and they breed in standing water. Throughout their lives, mosquitos will go through four stages, including egg, then larva, then pupa, and finally adults. Eggs are laid either in or right by the water. After several days, they will hatch into wrigglers or larvae. Eggs can be laid alone, but they are typically laid in raft-like structures in bunches. As wrigglers, mosquitos feed on various types of microscopic plants. They will grow and molt multiple times before becoming the pupae, which are also known as tumblers. Depending on the mosquito species, the entire process of going from egg to adults can take just between 7 and 10 days.
Although mosquitos, in general, have a reputation for biting and feeding on blood, it is only the females that do so. Females typically require blood meals before laying eggs. Most mosquitos will stay within about a half mile of the location they were bred, but this is not always the case and they can fly multiple miles. Male mosquitoes will typically live just six to seven days, during which time they feed on plant nectars. Provided that females have enough access to food, they can live five months or more. Most of the time, however, they average closer to six weeks.
Why Mosquitos Are Pests
Mosquitos are notorious pests due to their need to bite and feed on blood. An actual mosquito bite itself does not actually cause much harm. It is common, however, for people to have inflammatory responses at the site, which are in reaction to the mosquito saliva. The bites are also known for their itchiness. The real problem associated with mosquito bites is the possibility of disease transmission. They are known for carrying serious illnesses such as the West Nile virus, Zika, dengue, malaria, and more. Some of those diseases can be serious or even deadly due to effects like microcephaly, meningitis, and encephalitis.
In addition to their ability to carry diseases that affect humans, mosquitos can also carry illnesses and parasites that impact horses and dogs. Examples include the West Nile virus, eastern equine encephalitis, and dog heartworms. The risk of diseases combined with the amount of blood that mosquitos draw means that they can become a serious nuisance or even severe problem for those who spend significant time outside. Similarly, they can be problematic for wild animals and livestock, as well as those who raise them. To show the extent of the risk of diseases transmitted by mosquitos, consider that the World Health Organization estimates these insects transmit dengue and malaria to over 300 million people annually. Those are just two of the previously-mentioned life-threatening diseases that mosquitos can carry.
Methods for Controlling Mosquitos
To thoroughly eradicate the mosquitos on your property, you will need to enlist the help of a professional with a range of insecticides and the knowledge of where to apply them. Residual insecticide sprays are particularly useful and many can even be applied to vegetation that the mosquitos are attracted to. Ideally, your pest control professional will combine the adult insecticides with an insect growth regulator. These products reduce the number of eggs laid or prevent young mosquitos from advancing through their life cycles. Just make sure to avoid spraying the insect growth regulators and insecticides on flowers that are in bloom so you do not hurt moths, bees, and butterflies.
If you were to try to apply the insecticide sprays yourself, you would need to use either an aerosol or sprayer, but professionals typically have backpack sprayers that are much more efficient. These sprayers let them cover the relevant areas in insecticides quickly. You can also ask your pest control company to spray a mosquito repellent in your yard. Some of those will mask your scent so the mosquitos cannot find you, but that type of repellent typically does not last more than a few days.
DIY Tips for How to Get Rid of Mosquitos
Although you are not likely to completely eliminate mosquitos from your property by yourself, knowing what to do can dramatically reduce the number of these insects that you have to deal with. Start by reducing the locations that mosquitos can breed in. Remember that mosquitos lay eggs near and in standing water. This means that if you have standing water on your property, you will unintentionally be attracting mosquitos to take up residence. Check for old tires, discarded containers, saucers of outdoor pots, tree holes, clogged gutters, and potholes. If you are not quite ready to get rid of your birdbath or something similar with standing water, then just change your water within this feature weekly. There are also some products you can place in ponds or water gardens to naturally kill the mosquito larvae.
If you have ponds on your property, you should also make sure to remove any algae that are on the water. This is one of the microorganisms that mosquito larvae feed on so removing it will reduce their chances of reaching adulthood. You will also want to take steps to physically exclude mosquitos from being able to enter your property. This means keeping your screens and windows shut. When you do have to open a door or window, keep it brief and try to minimize the indoor lights that are on at that time since mosquitos are attracted to light.
Speaking of lights, minimize the appeal of your property to mosquitos by reducing the number of outdoor lights you have. Or keep the lights but replace them with yellow ones that are designed to be less attractive to insects. For those creative homeowners who like to enjoy nature, you can also encourage mosquito predators to spend some time on your property. Swallows and bats both enjoy feeding on mosquitos so try to install a birdhouse or a bat house. You can also use things like mosquito traps and mosquito nets.
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