Extension agent: Mosquitoes are here!

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 24, 2015

Brian Maddy

Contributing columnist


These last couple of months have been mosquito paradise. We’ve had timely rains and each time you go outside the mosquitoes begin their feast. They detect our carbon dioxide signature and it means suppertime.

What would the North America be like if there were never any mosquitoes? Mosquitoes spread malaria, yellow fever, eastern equine encephalitis, west nile virus and others. Millions of people would be spared all the suffering that mosquitoes bring by their blood sucking habits.

Would you believe that there were no mosquitoes in North America prior to John Smith making a landing at what was to be known as Jamestown? Yes, his ships brought the first swarms of mosquitoes to our coast from the swampy south of England to the swampy Virginia coastline that was a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes were one of the first invasive species brought to North America. Mosquitoes are public enemy No. 1 throughout the world for spreading diseases.

Georgia is the home to as many as 63 species of mosquitoes. This spring and summer provided abundant rainfall, which is perfect for having mosquitoes make unwanted visits to your backyards and homes.

The big question is how to avoid getting bit. Female mosquitoes do all the damage and the males are pollinators. A good way is to stand next to someone who has plenty of flesh exposed, wearing dark colored clothes and plenty of fragrance.

If you are wearing light colored clothes and fairly well covered up, your friend will be the first victim. Some people are just more attractive to mosquitoes than others.

The carbon dioxide that we exhale and give off through our skin acts as an attractant as well. That is how they find us in the dark.

When she bites with her needle-like mouthparts, the female mosquito injects some saliva into the bite to keep the blood flowing. This results in the itchy bump or “mosquito bite.”

Everyone reacts differently to the mosquito saliva. Different species attack at different times of the day. Most are not active in the heat of the day or on windy days. They can fly as far as a mile, but most don’t go further than a few hundred feet. They rest in the heat of the day in vegetation where it’s cooler and the humidity is higher.

A mosquito can go through its entire lifecycle in seven days, from egg to adult. Moist soil is perfect for egg laying. They need still water for their larva after they hatch to swim around in.

In both the larva stage and the pupa stage they must come to the surface to breath. You can actually see these stages in the water if you look real close.

After a few days, the pupa will rest on the water surface, the skin will split open and the adult mosquito will emerge. They need less than an inch of water to do this.

What the best way of controlling mosquitoes? Prevention is usually the best way. Walter F. Reed discovered that mosquitoes were the cause of yellow fever. This was just after the Spanish American War and was a very debilitating illness for our troops in Cuba.

Interrupting the life cycle of the mosquito proved very effective. If there is no stagnant water for them to breed in, the mosquito population will go down dramatically.

Empty out all the old cans, buckets, old tires, glass jars, old toys or anything that accumulates water. Change out the water in birdbaths and wading pools once a week. Fix the leaking hosepipe and clean out the roof gutters and air conditioner drains so water doesn’t accumulate there.

Drill drainage holes in tires used as swings and check flowerpots and saucers for water as well. Drain ditches and low areas. Fill in tree stumps that water can pool in.

Keep the grass and weeds mowed to remove resting areas. Keep fish in ponds and water gardens to eat the larva. Goldfish do a good job. Keep your screens in good repair and keep a fly swatter handy in the house.

Insect repellants work well for personal control. Be sure to read the label. Citronella candles work well in a limited area without wind.

Electronic bug zappers/repellers do no provide mosquito control. They draw insects to your yard and kill way too many beneficial insects. Dress in light colored clothes, cover up especially at dusk and take it easy on colognes.

What’s going on in Extension?

Aug. 18: Troup County Cattleman, Forages and Nutrition; Dr. Kim Mullinex, guest speaker; 7 p.m., a Tuesday. Program will start at 7:30 p.m. The $6 meal will be served at 7 p.m. Ag Center.

Market on Main begins Saturday mornings from 8 to 10 a.m.. Come by and enjoy the pick of the day. Carmike Cinemas LaGrange 10 movie theater parking lot at East Depot and Main streets.

Brian Maddy is the ANR Agent for Troup County Extension. The Troup County Extension office is located at 114 Church St. in LaGrange and may be reached at 706-883-1675, Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–noon and 15 p.m.