Written by Rhonda Ferree, retired horticulture educator
Summertime brings family cookouts, swim parities, little league baseball, and the ever dreaded mosquito. Rhonda Ferree, Horticulture Educator with University of Illinois Extension, reminds us that the first step to fighting mosquitoes MUST begin in our OWN backyard.
According to Rhonda, the West Nile Virus is most frequently transmitted through the house mosquito. Since it can only fly about 1½ miles, this mosquito usually breeds and lives in our own backyards. After getting an adequate blood meal, the adult female mosquito lays her eggs in any stagnant water source. The eggs and larvae must have water to live. Therefore, we must remove as many water sources as possible from our yards and communities.
"The water source does not have to be large," says Ferree. "In fact the house mosquito prefers small, nasty water pools. It can breed in water sources as small as an 8-ounce glass".
Here are common areas in our yards that Rhonda says often hold enough water to breed mosquitoes: dirty gutters, flat roofs, tin cans, buckets, brake drums, bottles, candy wrappers, and trash. Most people know to eliminate tires, which are the "Crown Plaza" of breeding sites. Also, remember to keep swimming pools clean and dump water in tarps and other covers. Keep birdbaths clean and fresh.
"For the gardener, remember to dump any water standing in containers or drip trays". Garden ponds should contain fountains or other features to keep the water moving or include top-feeding fish that will eat any mosquito larvae that try to develop. Examples of top-feeding fish include Gambusia, known as mosquito fish, most bait minnows, guppies, or even goldfish. Koi are not recommended since they are vegetarians.
It's hard to predict insect populations from year to year. Spring populations are easy to get a handle on due to winter conditions, but spring conditions have an effect on summer populations, summer weather affects fall insects, and so forth. You really can't predict problems for more than one season in a row.
Eliminating breeding sites can reduce mosquito problems in your yard. Rhonda emphasizes that this is essential to any type of mosquito control program. Fortunately, an ongoing program of eliminating these sites in your yard is easy and not time consuming. However, it must be done regularly – at least once per week since it takes mosquito larvae 5-7 days to develop.
For areas where the water cannot be eliminated, there are other options for controlling the larvae. For more information, contact your local Extension office. Find your local office by visiting www.extension.illinois.edu. You can also post questions on Rhonda's facebook page at www.facebook.com/ferree.horticulture.
MEET THE AUTHOR
As horticulture educator, Rhonda Ferree inspired citizens in local communities to grow their own food and improve their home landscapes. She focused on high quality, impactful programs that taught homeowners how to create energy-efficient landscapes using sustainable practices that increase property values and help the environment.
After 30 years with University of Illinois Extension, Rhonda retired in 2018. She continues to share her passion for horticulture related topics as “Retro Rhonda” on social media.
ABOUT THE BLOG
ILRiverHort is a blog that helps people connect to nature and grow.