April, May and even June temperatures were moderate. Moisture has been abundant or adequate. Current conditions and short-term forecasts remind us that summer has certainly arrived. Thunderstorms and warm nights are typical for Georgia summers. They also provide ideal conditions for mosquito habitat and development.
Dr. Elmer Gray is a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension entomologist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. As an expert on mosquito biology and control, he provides the following suggestions and guidance:
“All mosquitoes require standing water to complete their life cycle and intermittent showers are very effective at filling containers around our homes and neighborhoods. These containers serve as excellent habitats for the larval stage of a mosquito to develop. Consequently, residents need to be particularly diligent about dumping out anything that can hold water and trying to keep things tidy around their properties this time of the year. The more things you have in your yards and on your porches, patios and decks, the better chance that you’re growing your own mosquitoes.
"In Georgia, mosquito control is conducted by a wide range of entities from county and town governments to private contractors to homeowners. In addition, the Georgia Department of Public Health and University of Georgia Cooperative Extension conduct surveillance and training programs in an effort to support an integrated pest management (IPM) approach to mosquito control.
"Using an IPM approach provides step-by-step methods of mosquito control that anyone can use. The first step is education. It’s important to learn about mosquito biology and where mosquitoes develop. In many areas, it’s in the containers, debris and drainage systems that are right in front of us. This is why, no matter how comprehensive an area’s mosquito control program is, residents must do their part to eliminate potential larval habitats of standing water.
"The second step is source reduction. A vigilant ‘tip or toss’ approach — tipping out standing water from flower pots, planters, children’s toys, wading pools, buckets and anything else around your yard that can hold water and tossing out anything unneeded that holds water — will help to minimize local mosquito populations in many instances. Any practice to eliminate standing water and improve drainage will help to limit mosquito populations.
"The third step is surveillance. This means getting out there and searching for cryptic, or hidden, larval habitats and working to collect and identify the mosquitoes that are causing the nuisance in a yard or neighborhood. By identifying the pest species, mosquito control practitioners will have a better idea where to look for the larval habitats.
"Sometimes, this work will show that the mosquitoes causing the problem are coming from swamps or marshes, and using a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved larvicide — the fourth step in integrated mosquito management — may be in order. Homeowners can also apply larvicide, using the mosquito dunks that are commonly available in garden and hardware stores to treat small areas of standing water where mosquito larvae, or wigglers, are seen. As with all pesticides, it’s extremely important to carefully read the pesticide label and follow all instructions carefully.
"There will be times when the larval mosquito habitats can’t be found or are too expansive to treat with larvicide. In these cases, it is necessary to apply an adulticide — the fifth and final stage of an integrated program. Properly conducted adulticide applications are very effective at reducing the number of mosquitoes present at a given time, but the effects are typically short-lived, as the application is only effective against the mosquitoes that are present at the time of the application.
"Adulticide applications require strict attention to pesticide labels and a particular awareness of the need to minimize impacts to pollinators and other non-targets. Communication between beekeepers and organized mosquito control programs has never been more important.
"Residents should also be aware that they can help minimize non-target risks. Following these integrated mosquito management practices will reduce the need for adulticide applications. If residents or private contractors are conducting adulticide applications, it is essential to avoid applications around flower vegetation and to try to make applications as late in the day as possible to allow pollinators to return to their nests.
"As summer begins, think about what you can do to reduce mosquitoes in your community. Eliminate any standing water, support your community program or government, and help your neighbors.”
Roger Gates is the agricultural and natural resources agent for University of Georgia Extension, Whitfield County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.