In this era of serious community concern about
mosquito-transmitted diseases like Zika and West Nile Virus, human health risks
add fuel to our urge to rely on “authorities” (companies, local government) to
deal with bugs for us by spraying chemicals. Chemicals are only part of the
process. The healthiest option all around is empowering ourselves, our families
and our neighborly relationships to deploy some biology basics – and join
forces for community pest control.
The fact is that street or yard “fogging” will kill any kind
of bug the chemical contacts: monarchs, dragonflies, bumblebees, etc. As a way
to control the blood-suckers, fogging misses a big mark. It only kills flying
adults that happen to be in the sprayed range and does not stop the cycle of
Mosquitoes reproduce in standing water. So while beneficial
bugs on the wing are dropping like flies, whole new generations of vigorous
mosquitoes will continue wiggling through their larval days in bucket lids,
toys left out in the yard, untended bird baths, trash (from discarded cans to
old tires), clogged gutters, pool covers or anything else that will hold the
same water for the five days (less time when it’s really hot) needed for
mosquito eggs to reach biting maturity.
Next time it rains, do a thorough search around your place.
Kids are natural detectives. Get them involved! Find every item that can hold
standing water. Pick it up, put it away, recycle it or throw it in the landfill
trash. Getting mosquito-breeding containers off your property in one sweep will
make ongoing mosquito-breeding control efficient, and effective.
Brightside, the City of St. Louis “cleaning and greening” group, has a new brochure detailing mosquito issues and pollinator-friendly controls.
If your property has low spots, or if you know that water is
pooling in spots you can’t reach (like corrugated drain pipes), you can toss in
some bits of Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bti. This is a soil-dwelling bacterium
that works as a biological larvicide. Added to standing water, it prevents
mosquito larvae from developing, without harming birds, aquatic life or pets.
Bti is sold in hardware and home improvement stores as compressed cakes, called
Mosquito Dunks; some garden centers offer Bti in particles, called Mosquito
Many city and town planners also understand and support the importance of
beneficial insects, especially pollinators. Local governments may let
property owners opt out of treatment along their fogging routes. If you do opt
out, you still hear the sound of the truck going by, but the driver will turn
off the chemical flow.
Local governments also invest in mosquito surveillance,
tracking mosquito species to control the populations that are health concerns,
and in controlling them through larvicide applications. If you are aware of a
mosquito breeding situation that you cannot address, contact your local or
state public health agency for help.
Contacts for public health agencies:
Mosquitoes are not “bad.” They are just bugs – and they are an important part of the food chain for dragonflies, bats, birds, fish, frogs – and even some mosquitoes that eat the larvae of other mosquitoes! Out of over 3500 species of mosquitoes living worldwide today, less than 10 species in three genera (Aedes, Anopheles, Culex) carry diseases of concern to humans.
Couldn’t we do without mosquitoes? Human knowledge of ecology is evolving. We can’t predict all the possible effects of eliminating a species. It’s not smart to take a cog out of Nature’s wheel. Instead of taking nature apart, let’s take responsibility to protect the health of pollinators, people, and the natural world overall.