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Gardeners can Help control pesky mosquitoes

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Only female mosquitos bite, causing a sometimes painful bite. Gardeners can help control mosquitos in a variety of ways.

Only female mosquitos bite, gorging their abdomens with blood, and causing an often painful, itching skin reaction. Gardeners can help control mosquitos in a variety of ways by eliminating where they lay their eggs.

Mention mosquitoes and people think of the irritating skin reaction that follows a mosquito bite. But there’s the potential for serious illness with certain mosquitos as anyone who has followed the spread of the Zika virus now knows.

Mosquitoes always develop in water, but the type of breeding place varies with the species. Anything that holds still water for at least a few days is common breeding ground for this insect. As little as a bottle cap can accommodate eggs.

The mosquito’s life cycle, once the adult lays eggs, is normally 10 days. However, going from an egg (covered with water) to the larval stage, then pupa, and then into an adult mosquito may take 13 to 16 days.

“The best prevention is to be aware of breeding sites,” says Patrick Byers, horticulture specialist, University of Missouri Extension.

Areas around the home where standing water exists should be suspect. Gardeners should eliminate unwanted containers of standing water and change water in birdbaths and wading pools once or twice a week.

“If you have garden or lily ponds, be sure to stock them with top-feeding minnows or fish,” said Byers.

If standing water can not be eliminated, then it can be treated to control developing larvae. A thin coat of vegetable oil may be used. Larvicides called mosquito dunks can also be purchased and placed in the water for larval control.

For indoor control, keep windows and doors tightly screened. Aerosol bombs containing pyrethrins or pyrethroids are effective against mosquitoes found in the home.

“Deet is a mosquito repellent that can be applied to skin and clothing and for up to five hours of protection. Mosquitoes are most active in the early morning and late evening. In problem areas, protection should be used if outside activities occur,” said Byers.

For more on mosquitoes and their control, contact the nearest MU Extension Center, or the Master Gardener Hotline in Greene County, 417-874-2963.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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