West Nile Virus Prevention

| September 2, 2012

With all the talk about the spread of West Nile Virus, here are some precautions you can take to help prevent a mosquito infestation. In addition, remember when outside, wear long sleeves and pants if working in a yard and apply products that contain Deet.

There are a lot of old wives’ tales and gimmicks for getting rid of mosquitoes. Russ Jundt, a mosquito and tick expert offers the following advice.

1. Tip containers to drain water

Mosquitoes don’t need much water to breed, so reducing — if not eliminating — standing water is the first step in eradicating the mosquito threat. “We create all sorts of areas for water to collect, which provides a breeding ground for mosquitoes,” Jundt says, noting that a 6-inch-diameter plant saucer with only a half-inch of water can be enough for mosquitoes to reproduce. “All they need is eight to 10 days for eggs to turn into adult mosquitoes,” he says. “It doesn’t take long.”He advises tipping any item that contains stagnant water, such as plant saucers, dog bowls and birdbaths, on a regular basis. Then, if needed, fill them with fresh water.

2. Toss unnecessary items

“Really, we’re our own worst enemy. We create mosquito habitats close to our house,” Jundt says. So if your yard is full of items that you don’t need and that are holding water, get rid of them. Old tires, for example, are notorious for retaining water that allows mosquitoes to breed. Throw them out or, if you’re using one for a swing, drill a hole in the bottom so the water can leak out. Also, clean your gutters so the water can drain freely.Trees and plants near the house provide shade and housing for mosquitoes, while stagnant water and organic material, such as leaves, give mosquitoes everything they need to breed and survive. “The better manicured lawn, with brush trimmed back, eliminates the areas that can be used as habitats,” he says.

3. Turn over buckets and pools

Kids’ toys, buckets, wading pools and anything else that holds water but you don’t want to throw out should be flipped over when not in use.

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For water that can’t be drained, such as what accumulates in fish ponds, ditches or rain barrels, use “mosquito dunks” to kill mosquito larvae. Roughly the diameter of a quarter, a dunk is dropped into standing water and releases a toxin that kills only mosquito larvae — it won’t harm fish, birds or other animals. Buy the dunks at home centers. They cost about $10 for a six-pack, which kill larvae for 30 days in 100 square feet of stagnant water.

4. Tie your tarps tightly

If you’re using a tarp to cover a pile of firewood, a speedboat, your grill or any other large items, make sure it’s pulled tight. Otherwise, rainwater pools in the folds and the low spots. If the tarp can’t be pulled tight, remove it so the water drains.

5. Treat the yard

A gallon jug of lawn insect repellant costs about $30 at a home center. Spray it on grass, shrubs and landscaped areas to create a barrier that insects won’t want to cross, or buy granules that can be applied to the lawn with a fertilizer spreader. The barrier, which is typically made with oils, repels insects without releasing fumes or chemicals, so it won’t harm pets or kids in the yard. It’s effective for about two to three weeks.You can hire the pros to do this, too. Mosquito Squad, for example, treats a half-acre lawn for an entire summer for $400. It also handles one-time events, such as outdoor weddings.

These tips work well for eliminating mosquito problems, but they require some planning. If the insects have already invaded your backyard party, there’s not much you can do. Jundt says quick-fix remedies such as burning candles and placing fans along the ground probably won’t keep you from getting bitten.

Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.

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