Let’s start at the beginning with mosquitoes. There isn’t just one kind – there’s a bunch of different species.
New Jersey alone has identified 60 species in that state which tells you something both about NJ and mosquitoes.
No matter the species, they all have four stages of development and they all require water to breed.
The female lays her eggs on a moist surface, such as mud, even piles of fallen leaves or on available still water surfaces such as ditches, ponds or still water ponds. Stagnant water is a prime egg laying territory. When rains wet these areas, the eggs hatch. It doesn’t take too long for the eggs to hatch into larvae, a week to pupate and then bam! Adult biting mosquito.
Most mosquito species have multiple generations in a year and although there is a dramatic upsurge in early spring, the problem is a summer-long one.
Interesting fact! Only females bite. Without exploring this any further (I’m a guy after all) let me point out that the female mosquito needs the protein in blood to form her eggs. She doesn’t have it – she’s going to bite something to get it. She can lay several batches of eggs between bites and matings but she’ll keep going at it until she wears out. The male mosquito on the other hand doesn’t bite, he sits around eating flower nectar and breeding with the females. The downside of this idyllic life is that it is a short one as he dies fairly soon after mating.
Most mosquito species survive winter in the egg stage (adults get frozen and die although in a few species, the bred-female overwinters in protected living spaces) and when water temperatures rise, spring moisture levels promote the hatching and we have a new generation to begin the process again.
Controlling mosquitoes is important because this insect has been a carrier of a variety of diseases. Statistically these problems are not large when compared to other diseases but they do tend to get a lot of press and media attention. We probably kill more people in a single city in North America in traffic accidents or muggings each year than can be laid at the feet (or rather the feeding tube) of the common mosquito. However, having said that it is only a statistic if it happens to somebody else and reducing the problem may help in some small way. They are mostly an annoyance as anybody who has tried to eat outdoors on an early summer’s night can attest.
As a matter of interest, the first time a mosquito female bites you, you have no chance of being infected with anything. The first bite is clean. It is only after she has had several bites (at least one from an infected source) that she can pass the problem along to you or your pet.
So how do you reduce mosquitoes?
Reduce standing water. Eliminate small bits of water in old rubber tires or tin cans sitting around.
Put fish in your pond. I use tiger barbs in my small ponds but guppies are equally voracious. I put a half dozen tiger barbs (they tend to stand cool water better than other varieties) guppies or even zebra fish into my lye tub pond (about 50 gallons of water) and let them do the job. Larger ponds will use other fish.
Wave action on ponds will stop mosquitoes from breeding so those with flowing water streams need not worry about this pest breeding.
Clean out the gutters of your roof. Drain flat roofs.
Change the water in ornamental bird baths or fountains at least twice a week.
Store kids pools upside down or empty their toys of water after every rainfall.
If you store rainwater for gardening use, keep a few fish in the barrel or cover it so that nothing can fly in. My brother and I used to watch the larvae hatch and float around in the rain barrel at our family house. Fascinating critters.
And let us be realistic. When surrounded by woodland or natural water areas, this insect is going to breed. No amount of spraying or chemical application is going to get rid of this pest. Period. Nor do our bird, fish or amphibian populations want us to get rid of this dinner meal. Personal protection devices abound on the market from sprays to bug zappers. You can find an entire range of products on the net but the gardener usually starts with ensuring their own garden isn’t a source of infection.
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