What Should we do?
1. Understand – Get informed about mosquitoes and the role you can personally play is helping. Fighting mosquitoes truly takes the involvement of the entire community and each individual can play a role. Container breeding mosquitoes, like the Asian Tiger Mosquito, are public enemy number one. Fighting these mosquitoes is a key area that can be confronted by individual homeowners.
2. Participate - Look, be aware, inspect your property for anything that holds water. Low spots, improper grading, toys, planting pots, tires, plastic wrappers, clogged gutters, anything… and eliminate the water. Homeowners can play a big role in mosquito control by policing their property and eliminating mosquito breeding areas.
3. Protect – If you go outside use repellant and wear protective clothing. If the mosquitoes are active the best way to avoid bites is to stay indoors.
4. Prevent / Treat – SAVE THE POLINATORS... Deny mosquitoes places to breed around your home and use pesticides with caution. Pesticides do have a role in the fight against mosquitoes. However, keep in mind airborne pesticides used against mosquitoes kill all kinds of insects not just mosquitoes. Foggers and Ultra Low Volume sprays only provide temporary relief, they will not solve a mosquito problem by themselves and should be used sparingly as a last resort for a specific reason. (read "The Larger Conversation" below for more info about this)
The Larger Conversation
Mosquitoes are fought with two strategies, before they hatch and after they hatch. The best strategy is to eliminate them before they hatch. This is done by disrupting and eliminating breeding areas. Basically there are three types of breeding environments mosquitoes use.
Before They Hatch – Lavacide treatments
Deny mosquitoes a place to breed. A homeowner is not going to solve mosquito lava problems for items a. and b. listed above; larva in large bodies of water and major drainage problems along roadways and throughout the community. This is where local municipalities and governments have a role. If a homeowner has bad grading or wet areas on their property they should certainly try to address those areas.
A homeowner can absolutely play a role in fighting container breeding mosquitoes, specifically Aedes Albopictus, the Asian Tiger Mosquito. The Tiger mosquito is a carrier for many mosquito borne illnesses such as Zika and West Nile virus. The Asian Tiger Mosquito is not a strong flyer and it stays relatively close to where it hatched. If a homeowner sees tiger mosquitoes around their home, there typically is a source of water within a few hundred feet. Often the water source can be on a neighbor’s property which is why it is important to have the entire community involved. One tarp over a woodpile behind someone’s shed or a forgotten child’s toy holding rain water is enough to cause a mosquito problem for all the homes nearby.
After They Hatch – Adulticide treatments
Adulticide poisons are designed to remain in the air and drift in order to cover a large area. By design these insecticides are very hard to contain. In communities with dense housing i.e. houses on a quarter acre lot or smaller, adulticide treatments can be risky. For example, one homeowner can spray his property while another homeowner is having a bar-BQ party. Depending on the wind and how the pesticide is being applied it can easily drift into the neighbors party.
A homeowner in a high density neighborhood hiring a pest control company to fumigate their property with adulticide every three to four weeks, during working hours (while pollinators are most active) is unnecessarily contaminating the environment and is not solving the problem.
Most homeowners have some kind of ornamental flowering plants in their landscape. Pollinating insects traveling from flower to flower are at risk from air borne adulticide treatments. A few dozen homeowners in a neighborhood randomly or periodically spraying for adult mosquitoes are not going to solve a mosquito problem and unfortunately, more often than not, there is more harm done to beneficial insects like honey bees and butterflies. Adulticide mosquito treatments should be used rarely as a last resort for temporary relief and applied only in the evening after pollinating insects are not active.
There is a difference in how adulticide treatments affect homes in high density neighborhoods and homes on acreage. High density neighborhoods benefit more from well managed adulticide treatments coordinated by their municipality. Whereas homes on wooded acreage may benefit from well managed individual adulticide treatments because they are not connected with a municipality capable of serving them and there is less chance of chemical drift into their neighbor’s property. Adulticide treatment have their place as long as they are appropriately deployed.
Additionally, for example, there are situations after a long period of rain or a flood event where large swarms of mosquitoes appear. In situations like these there is a role for local municipal agencies to provide well managed and coordinated relief with adulticide treatments for a community when it was not previously needed.
Our position is that adulticide treatments should never be done around flowering plants or during the day while pollinating insects are active.
In high density housing neighborhoods individual adulticide treatments should be done rarely as temporary relief for a specific reason.
If adulticide treatments are needed to knock back a large adult population then they should be done for the entire community in the evening after pollinators are no longer active.
The main focus of a mosquito control effort should be on denying mosquitoes their breeding environments. Education and outreach at the family level along with the larger effort on the municipal level can achieve better results.