The word mosquito is derived from two Spanish words that mean “little fly.” Though small in stature, these flying pests feed on human and animal blood with the potential to do great harm. More deaths are attributed to mosquitoes than any other animal in the world because of the diseases they spread.
Mosquitoes are descended from flies, becoming the insect we know now over 200 million years ago. Of the known 3,500 species, 175 live in the United States. Texas is purported to be home to the most species, with 85, while West Virginia is thought to have the least at 26.
Not only are mosquitoes known for disrupting outdoor activities, but they are also vectors for dangerous diseases. Drawn to standing water and capable of laying up to 3,000 eggs in a lifetime, it’s no wonder that mosquitoes are one of the top nuisance pests in the US!
Where are mosquitoes commonly found?
Mosquitoes are found throughout the world, except in:
- French Polynesia
- New Caledonia
Mosquitoes thrive in warm locales with high humidity and are most abundant in spring, summer, and fall. They are active at all times of the day but tend to migrate to cooler locations when the temperature is extremely hot. During temperatures below 50°F, females will hibernate, holding onto their eggs until the temperature rises.
What are the risks of mosquitoes?
When a mosquito bites, the saliva passed creates an allergic reaction that can result in red, itchy bumps or welts. These areas can become inflamed and, if scratched to excess, cause secondary skin infections.
Mosquitoes spread deadly diseases that include malaria, dengue fever, West Nile virus, yellow fever, encephalitis, elephantiasis, and Zika virus. While these are more common in other countries, causing millions of death each year, cases also occur in the United States. Mosquito attacks can be especially harmful to children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems, and can also cause birth defects in unborn children. Mosquitoes also pass parasites and diseases to animals, including heartworm which can be fatal to dogs.
DIY Mosquito Treatments
Some do-it-yourself treatments may help manage small mosquito populations:
- Apply an over-the-counter insecticide. These will kill mosquitoes on contact, but will not prevent new ones.
- Add bacteria called bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (or Bti) to water where larvae are found. Bti produces proteins that become toxins once ingested by the larvae.
- Place mosquito traps in infested areas. These traps are capable of killing thousands of mosquitoes per day.
- Avoid bug zappers. While these machines kill other types of insects, they have proven to be ineffective for mosquito problems.
Mosquitoes pose a serious health hazard and should be professionally treated if found in large numbers.
Mosquito Prevention Tips
Multiple preventive techniques can be employed to keep mosquitoes at bay.
- Keep standing water to a minimum. Stagnant pools of water, even in small amounts, offer excellent breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Birdbaths, toys, gutters, non-chlorinated pools, plant containers, and poorly-drained lawns are all potential havens for mosquitoes.
- Repair torn screens and close gaps where mosquitoes can enter your home.
- Add mosquito-repelling plants like citronella or the lemon-scented geranium to your landscape.
- Use fans to break down carbon dioxide and blow mosquitoes away.
- Add gambusia fish (also called mosquitofish) to ponds. They feed on mosquito larva.
- Wear clothing and shoes to cover exposed skin.
- Burn pinion wood in your outdoor fire pit. Mosquitoes do not like its smell.
- Sprinkle used coffee grounds in standing water. They force mosquito eggs to the surface, depriving them of necessary oxygen.
- Use red cedar mulch or chips in your yard.
- Apply an insect-repelling spray or lotion that contains DEET, lemon eucalyptus oil, or picaridin.
- Hang a bat house to attract bats to your yard for natural mosquito control, as a single brown bat can eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes in one hour.