TAMPA - Do you run for cover whenever the sun starts to go down? Are you swatting mosquitoes when you should be flipping burgers at your backyard bar-b-ques? You don't have to be kept a prisoner in your own home. With a little preventative maintenance and monitoring, and maybe a little professional help, you can gain the upper hand on mosquitoes.
"Not only are mosquitoes a nuisance when you're out trying to have a family barbecue, but they are also a health risk," says Angie's List founder, Angie Hicks. "For example, you could get West Nile. Making sure you have a comfortable outdoor mosquito-free area is important for your family."
Mosquitoes go through four stages in their life cycle: egg, larvae, pupa and adult. All but the last stage occur in water. Without water, mosquitoes can't reproduce. "As a homeowner there are many things you can do to protect your family from mosquitoes," Hicks said. "The best defense is getting rid of water. Be conscious of any kind of water that is standing in your yard – bird baths, kid's swimming pools, even gutters can have some standing water. Anywhere there is standing water for a period of time, it's a breeding ground for mosquitoes."
You might think your yard is safe from mosquitoes because there's no obvious sign of standing water, but the reality is that even a bottle cap full of water can become a mosquito breeding ground. The number one most important thing you can do is eliminate standing water. Empty water from bird baths, flower pot saucers, pet dishes, old tires, unused swimming pools, fence posts, and other items that collect and hold water. Make sure rain barrels are covered. Keep gutters cleaned. Clogged gutters or gutters that don't drain properly are common breeding sites.
If you've done everything you can but are still swatting, you might need to hire a professional. Ken Frost is a mosquito control contractor who says when mosquitoes aren't feasting on our blood, they make meals out of plant nectar. "When we come to a property, we come in with a backpack sprayer and a tank that has the product in it that we mixed. It is a plant-based product made with chrysanthemum plants. Our target areas are leaves. On the bottom side there are plant nectar veins. That is what the mosquitoes are after. So when we apply our product, it sticks to the underside of the leaf and when the mosquito comes to feed on that, it kills them off."
Angie's List Tips: Mosquito prevention
- Trim back vegetation: Mosquitoes feast on plant nectar when they aren't prowling for blood, so they spend a lot of time in tall grasses or around shrubs and bushes. Trim vegetation near the home and keep lawns mowed.
- Use mosquito-repelling plants: Several types of plants act as a natural mosquito repellent. For example, the citronella smell used in mosquito-repelling candles is derived from the citronella plant, a grass that can be grown in climates where it doesn't freeze or raised in a pot in colder climates. Mosquitoes also avoid catnip, lavender, marigolds, basil and peppermint.
- Remove yard debris: Be aware of areas where debris collects in the yard, such as grass clippings and piles of leaves.
Angie's List Tips: Hiring professional mosquito control
- Ask about chemicals: If you have pets or children, ask which insecticides will be used in the treatment. Ask to see the label of the product.
- Are you licensed? In many states and jurisdictions, exterminators must be licensed. Check with your state pesticide agency to find out if this applies to your area. The exterminator may also be required to a hold a license to use certain pesticides or chemicals. Ask to see the exterminator's license before making a hiring decision.
- What is the application schedule: How often will the company come out? Most mosquito control companies offer plans where a technician applies a one-time treatment or comes out several times a year. Some homeowners will schedule a single treatment before an outdoor event such as a wedding or party.
- Read the contract before signing: All details should be clearly stated in a contract before you sign the dotted line, including whether the company offers a guarantee.