Common name: Mosquito
Scientific name: Order Diptera, family Culicidae
Size: 1/8" to 3/8"
Identification: Adults are slender delicate flies with small heads and long, slender, sucking mouthparts. Clear wings. Antennae are feathery on males, hairy on females. Some fly with a high-pitched whine.
Biology and life cycle: The females are the bloodsuckers, feeding on many vertebrate hosts. Males don't bite but feed on nectar and honeydew. Eggs are laid singly or in floating groups of fifty to three hundred. Larvae are called wigglers.
Habitat: Any aquatic area.
Feeding habits: Females suck blood of animals. They are attracted to vertebrates by carbon dioxide (CO2). Males occasionally eat nectar and honeydew.
Economic importance: Serious disease vectors.
Natural control: Mosquito-eating fish; predators such as bats, purple martins, hummingbirds, damselflies, aquatic beetles, spiders, predatory mites, and dragonflies.
Organic control: Habitat drainage. Treatment of stagnant water with Bacillus thuringiensis 'Israelensis'. Spray for adult infestations with garlic-pepper tea, Garrett Juice plus orange oil, and Liquid Fire Ant Control. To avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, use essential oil of lavender to mask the human odors that attract mosquitoes. Vanilla and other herbal repellents also work. The plant oil products that contain mint, rosemary, wintergreen and blends of other herbs work very well and donít hurt vertebrates (birds, cats, dogs, livestock or people).
Insight: Mosquitoes are pests--in fact, they're a menace. Not only can they easily spoil a fancy garden party, but they can cause malaria, encephalitis, and other serious diseases. Control to eliminate the pest from spreading serious diseases is important, but it's also important to note that more home repellents are used in futile attempts to control mosquitoes than any other home insect pest. The problem with most insecticides is that they don't work. They kill as many or more beneficial insects as pests.
Mosquitoes and the Diseases They Can Carry
Almost everyone has had the unpleasant experience of being bitten by a mosquito. Mosquito bites can cause severe skin irritation through an allergic reaction to the mosquito's saliva - this is what causes the red bump and itching. But a more serious consequence of some mosquito bites may be transmission of certain serious diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and several forms of encephalitis. Not only can mosquitoes carry diseases which afflict humans, but they also can transmit several diseases and parasites that dogs and horses are very susceptible to. These include dog heart worms and eastern equine encephalitis.
There are about 200 different species of mosquitoes in the United States, all of which live in specific habitats, exhibit unique behaviors and bite different types of animals. Despite these differences, all mosquitoes share some common traits, such as a four-stage life cycle. After the female mosquito obtains a blood meal (male mosquitoes do not bite), she lays her eggs directly on the surface of stagnant water, in a depression, or on the edge of a container where rainwater may collect and flood the eggs. The eggs hatch and a mosquito larva or "wriggler" emerges. The larva lives in the water, feeds and develops into the third stage of the life cycle called a pupa or "tumbler". The pupa also lives in the water, but no longer feeds. Finally, the mosquito emerges from the pupal case and the water as a fully developed adult, ready to bite.
The type of standing water in which the mosquito chooses to lay her eggs depends upon the species. The presence of beneficial predators such as fish and dragonfly nymphs in permanent ponds, lakes and streams usually keep these bodies of water relatively free of mosquito larvae. However, portions of marshes, swamps, clogged ditches and temporary pools and puddles are all prolific mosquito breeding sites. Other sites in which some species lay their eggs include tree holes and containers such as old tires, buckets, toys, potted plant trays and saucers and plastic covers or tarpaulins. Some of the most annoying and potentially dangerous mosquito species, such as the Asian tiger mosquito, come from these sites.
Question: Recently, a reader said that she had a major mosquito problem in her yard and asked what to do. I believe you suggested that she install a plant-oil misting system. Will such a system harm beneficial insects and birds or discourage them from entering an area that has been sprayed with pyrethrum? L.R., Dallas
Answer: Pyrethrum sprays and mists would hurt beneficials. That's why I don't recommend them. Plant-oil products such as Bioganics and Eco Exempt will hurt beneficial insects if sprayed too often or in a concentrated form, but they do not harm vertebrates such as frogs, toads, lizards, birds, cats, dogs and humans.
Synthetic and natural forms of pyrethrum are neurotoxins to nonvertebrates and vertebrates. They are especially hard on people with allergies. Children with asthma are the most seriously affected. Pyrethrum, pyrethrins and pyrethroids should not be used.
Howard Garrett, Organics, Dirt Doctor.