Safe and Natural Mosquito Control
Jun 01, 2012 01:07PM
By Howard Garrett, The Dirt Doctor
Besides being a summer nuisance, mosquitoes pose some public health problems, carrying such deadly agents as malaria, yellow fever and West Nile virus. However, conventional pesticide application is often less than effective in controlling mosquito larvae before they hatch, and repeated use of toxic materials has raised environmental and health concerns.
Be aware of what your city is spraying for mosquitoes. Toxic spraying does more harm than good. Cities across the country have been foolish and have listened to the chemical pushers under the misconception that spraying toxic chemicals is helpful in controlling the mosquitoes. Spraying toxic chemical pesticides, known generically as synthetic pyrethroids, has been the primary recommendation.
Besides being toxic, this procedure doesn’t work. An adult mosquito spray program conducted late at night, as is usually done, misses the primary activity time of the pests. It also sprays or fogs down streets, primarily affecting front yards of residential property. Most mosquito problems are in back yards. When these airborne toxins reach water features, ponds and creeks, a common result is the death of fish, including goldfish and koi.
The risk of getting West Nile virus is remote. A very small percentage of mosquitoes have the virus, an even smaller percentage of people exposed to the virus develop symptoms and a minute percentage of those people even get sick. Spraying toxic chemicals for the control of mosquitoes is a waste of money and an unnecessary assault on people, pets and the environment—plus, it simply doesn’t work. There is good argument that the spraying actually increases the mosquito problem by killing beneficial insects such as dragonflies that help control mosquitoes.
Rational, effective control of mosquitoes results from removing or treating stagnant water with biological products, horticultural oils or gambusia fish and wearing non-toxic repellents on the skin. If spraying the air to try to repel or kill adult biting mosquitoes is required, there are highly effective, non-toxic alternatives, such as several brands of essential oil products.
What To Do At Home
• Empty standing water where possible. Even small containers such as pot saucers, old tires, soda bottles and cans hold enough water for mosquito breeding.
• Treat water that cannot be emptied with gambusia fish or products such as Bactimos Briquettes or Mosquito Dunks.
• Spray to kill adult mosquitoes with essential plant oil-based pesticides such as Avenger Natural Insect Control, EarthHarvest or Eco-EXEMPT. Garlic oil sprays work well to repel the insects for up to 20 days. Even better, broadcast dry garlic over the site at one to two pounds per 1,000 square feet. Dr. T’s Mosquito Repellent is another good dry product, but Bonide Mosquito Beater Granules are more cost-effective and work better.
• Use organic landscape management to encourage birds, bats, fish, dragonflies and other beneficial insects.
• Use skin repellents that contain natural repellent herbs such as aloe vera, eucalyptus, tea tree oil, lavender, vanilla, citronella and other helpful herbs, but avoid the dangerous DEET products.
• Cinnamon oil shows promise as a great-smelling, environmentally friendly pesticide with the ability to kill mosquito larvae, according to a new study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. The researchers also expect that cinnamon oil could be a good mosquito repellant. Vanilla is another good bet.
Dallas Morning News columnist Howard Garrett, aka The Dirt Doctor, is a landscape architect with extensive experience in landscape contracting, greenhouse growing, golf course planning and maintenance and organic product development.