Taking the Bite Out of Summer
Tips for a mosquito free yard
Colleen Bagley Haskins owns and manages the Columbia Mosquito Squad franchise.
Photography by Jeff Amberg
Its warm, humid environment makes the Midlands a mosquito utopia for much of the year. Besides the diseases they commonly carry – West Nile Virus, encephalitis, malaria and heartworms – mosquitoes are, quite frankly, pests. They bite children, pets, even birds and reptiles. The good news is that man finally has a fighting chance of winning the battle against them.
Colleen Bagley Haskin, owner and manager of the Columbia Mosquito Squad franchise, is a font of mosquito knowledge and facts. “Mosquitoes are the deadliest animals on the planet. They kill three million people per year, and most are children.” Luckily, the United States is virtually malaria free today, but every 30 seconds a child somewhere in the world dies from the terrible disease.
Ted DuBose, a local pediatrician who co-owns The Mosquito Authority franchise, says, “Ninety percent of Mosquito Authority’s customers are families with children.” Lilly, his wife who has worked as a nurse in pediatric ICU, says, “I have seen kids with encephalitis caused by mosquitoes, and I have seen mosquito bites that turned into infected, open sores from constant scratching.”
No one wants to be exiled from their yards due to mosquitoes, and who wants to keep pets and children stuffed indoors or covered in bug spray? Citronella plants and citronella candles are, for the most part, ineffective. Jared Templin of Cooper’s Nursery on Parklane says, “For citronella plants to work, you would need to plant hundreds of them around a specific area and pop their branches or bruise their leaves in order to release the citronella oils. Citronella candles provide only a small barrier if several are placed in very close proximity to where people are sitting.”
The good news is that there are some simple, affordable solutions that actually work. The first and most important: get rid of stagnant water. According to Colleen, “One bottle cap full of stagnant water can hatch three to four hundred eggs.” Only the adult female bites; the male feeds on plant juices. The female has to feed on an animal to get a sufficient blood meal before she can develop eggs, which she then lays in water or really moist soil. Most eggs hatch within 48 hours, and the larvae feed and molt in the water for seven to 14 days before turning into pupae, which turn into adults two days later.
Mosquitoes lay their eggs anywhere the least bit of water might gather, such as holes in trees, toys left in yards, bird baths and the soil of overwatered lawns.
So while it may seem impossible not to provide a hatchery for mosquitoes, commercial intervention every 21 days can help keep them under control.
Commercial barrier sprays seem to be one of the easiest, longest lasting and most effective options for keeping yards mosquito free. Colleen says that misting systems work well for well-defined outdoor living areas, while commercial barrier sprays are ideal for whole yard protection. “A great feature of the barrier spray,” she says, “is the ability to direct the spray.” Envision a professional holding a leaf blower, but instead of a strong stream of air, a forced stream of mosquito repellant fog blows out of the sprayer. “We can treat certain areas of a yard without affecting an area such as an organic garden,” Colleen says.
“Normally, the chemical of choice for misters and barrier sprays is pyrethroid, a synthetic chemical derived from chrysanthemums,” explains Ted. “This is the same active ingredient found in lice shampoo and flea and tick shampoo. It is safe for kids and pets.” While he has seen what mosquito bites can do to kids, as a pediatrician, Ted was adamant about not using harmful chemicals.
Besides pyrethroids, Mosquito Squad also offers a natural product that is garlic-based and can be used in sensitive areas, but it requires more frequent spraying.
David Hill, operations manager of HOME Pest Control, says, “HOME Pest’s application for adulticide is similar to the others, but we also use an insect growth regulator. Small charcoal pellets are placed in areas of standing water – bird baths, saucers under planters, drain basins – and the chemical releases from the pellet and floats to the top of the water, killing the larvae. It is totally eco-friendly and will not hurt dogs, birds or anything else that may drink the water.”
There are several mosquito eradication businesses in the Midlands just itching to provide an outdoor haven of safety and comfort. Orkin, Terminix, Home Pest Control and other pest control businesses offer mosquito treatment options along with their usual indoor and outdoor pest control options. Mosquito Squad also offers outdoor pest control options (fleas, ticks, spiders, flies and fire ants, among others) along with mosquito control, and The Mosquito Authority, as the name implies, focuses on mosquito elimination. A barrier spray once every three weeks is best for overall pest control from April through September. And most companies offer mosquito free guarantees.
It is possible to be set free from the hassle of biting outdoor pests this summer. Lilly DuBose, however, offers a fair warning, “Once you don’t have mosquitoes anymore, you can’t go back!”