Mosquitoes are especially abundant this summer because of heavy rainfall and increased moisture in the environment.
University of Minnesota Extension entomologist Jeff Hahn explains mosquito larvae live in small pools of water. Increases in rainfall lead to more mosquito breeding grounds. Although rain cannot be controlled, there are many steps Minnesotans can take to combat mosquitoes.
• Mosquitoes avoid direct sunlight. They are more common during early morning and evening as well as cloudy days. Try to avoid these times when possible.
• Draining small child pools, clogged gutters and other small pools of water prevents your yard from turning into a mosquito breeding ground. “If you have something that collects water, dump it or drain it,” Hahn says.
• Put a thin layer of vegetable oil on water that cannot be drained (like rain buckets and bird baths) to suffocate the larvae and stop mosquito breeding. Also, keep weeds and grasses from getting tall.
It is important to protect your skin when you are outside.
“Repellent is a good first line of defense,” says Hahn, who recommends using sprays, such as DEET or picaridin on your body and clothes. Also, covering your skin with long sleeves and long pants is an effective method of preventing bites.
Alternative and homemade methods of mosquito prevention are minimally effective, if at all, Hahn says. Citronella candles, ultrasound repellents, or insect zappers will not reduce the amount of bites you get outside, even if you catch a few mosquitoes. In the case of bug zappers you may even end up attracting more insects than the amount you’re exterminating.
Besides biting, mosquitoes can carry diseases like West Nile virus, which increased nationally and in Minnesota last year. Last year, there were 70 cases of the virus here, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.
“Humans are most likely to get infected with West Nile at the end of the summer so even though mosquito numbers go down, people still need to protect themselves,” Hahn says.
For more information on mosquitoes and other insects in Minnesota, visit www.extension.umn.edu/insects.