The recent rainstorms in San Diego County won’t end our drought, but I have enjoyed them anyway, it’s been a nice change after so many dry days.
Mosquitoes love a little spring rain too. Mosquitoes are opportunists and they need standing water to breed. Mosquitoes go from eggs to adulthood in water. Your yard could be a breeding ground right now for mosquitoes, and you won’t find out until they mature in about two weeks and start attacking you every time you walk outside.
Mosquitoes are more than annoying. Mosquitoes can transmit West Nile virus and malaria. Three hundred million people worldwide are inflected with diseases by mosquitos every year.
So now is the time to think about mosquito prevention. The number one thing you can do is eliminate standing water, and now is the time to do it. Believe it or not, even a bottle cap full of water is enough to breed mosquitoes. Walk around your yard and look for puddles on the ground or other surfaces. Look for shallow areas in landscaping that might hold water. Check your rain gutters. Gutters that don’t drain well or have low spots are common breeding areas.
Check areas where your kids play and might leave out toys that could collect water and sit for a while.
If you have a pool or a spa, make sure there are no leaks that sit and collect where mosquitoes might breed. Don’t let water collect on covers.
If you have a birdbath or a reflecting pool, change the water out at least twice a week to prevent mosquito breeding.
If you leave gardening tools and supplies out where they might collect rain, be sure to turn them upside down. Plant saucers, pots and buckets can fill up and mosquitoes love these. While it’s smart to let a watering can fill up with rainwater outside, use it right away.
When mosquitoes aren’t biting you, they feed on plant nectar. They will hide during the heat of the day in grass and other vegetation near your house. Keep bushes and shrubs close to your property trimmed, and if you still have a lawn, keep it mowed down.
Don’t leave any yard debris out, like grass clippings or piles of leaves. Don’t let material collect along your fences.
There are several kinds of plants that act as mosquito repellents. If you’ve ever burned a citronella candle, this scent comes from the citronella plant. It is a grass that can easily be grown in the warm San Diego climate. You can even grow it in pots.
In general, mosquitoes hate fragrant, strong smelling herbs and flowers. Some of the best to keep the bugs from bugging you are lavender, basil, peppermint, lemon balm, and catnip. These are all drought-resistant plants, which are easy to grow.
If you have a living wall or green roof or are considering one, many of these plants can be included as a mosquito prevention tactic. Be sure also that your irrigation systems aren’t leaving any pools of standing water, even briefly, that can allow mosquitoes to breed.
If you grow these plants in pots, you can put them close to doors and windows to keep mosquitoes from coming inside, and you can move them onto tables when you are enjoying an outdoor barbecue or other gathering.
Marigolds also have a unique smell that repels mosquitoes. They also discourage insects that prey on tomato plants. Marigolds and the other mosquito repelling choices we have listed attract the good kind of insects, pollinators like bees and butterflies, and hummingbirds too.
Prevention is the best method, but if you already see mosquitoes swarming, burning a citronella candle or spraying insecticide is only a temporary fix. Rooting out the places mosquitoes breed is the only sure fire way to stop them.
Consider using Mosquito fish, available from the County of San Diego’s Environmental Health department for free, to control mosquito breeding in backyard water sources such as unused swimming pools, ponds, fountains and horse troughs.
If you are infested and need professional help, pest control companies can provide barrier spray treatments. Most use botanical pesticides that break down when exposed to sunlight or moisture. These are not harmful to you or your kids, but these pesticides can harm ocean life if they get into stormwater runoff.
Bug zappers and ultrasonic repellers may seem like great solutions, but they are really too little too late. Studies show no significant difference in mosquito populations between yards with these devices and yards without them. One University of Notre Dame study found four to six percent of mosquitos at most were killed, and since only female mosquitos bite, you can reduce this by half.
Mosquito traps are being developed scientists say are promising and they are cautiously optimistic they will become more sophisticated and effective. They don’t discourage homeowners from using them, but say nothing can beat preventing mosquitos from breeding in the first place.
For more information, visit the County of San Diego’s “Fight The Bite” website for tips and help, or download the County’s “Fight The Bite” phone app. You can also anonymously report green swimming pools, dead birds which may carry West Nile virus or other mosquito breeding areas.
Take time now to walk around your property and even your immediate neighborhood. Eliminate standing water; get rid of trash and debris where mosquitoes can hide until they find water to breed. We’re lucky we don’t live in Texas. It’s the state with the highest number of mosquito species: 85. West Virginia has the fewest species, 26. There are 53 mosquito breeds found in California, plenty to worry about.