The Athens-Clarke County Unified Government (ACCGov) Public Information Office provides tips and resources to help keep citizens safe during upcoming months when many mosquitoes are most active. Mosquitoes that have fed on infected animals or humans can transmit West Nile virus, LaCrosse encephalitis, Zika, or other diseases to humans, wildlife, and domestic animals. There are over 160 mosquito species in the United States and over 60 in Georgia.
All mosquitoes require standing water for part of their life cycle. Only female mosquitoes bite, requiring a blood meal to develop their eggs. Once eggs in or near water have been wet for a period of time, larvae hatch and feed on particles in the water before transforming into pupae. After 1-3 days in the pupal stage, the adult mosquito emerges from the water. In ideal conditions, the growth from egg to adult can take less than one week.
There are two general ways to minimize mosquito bites:
- Reduce mosquitoes in your area, and
- Reduce mosquitoes' attraction to you and your family.
Eliminating breeding sites is extremely important in reducing the mosquito population. Removing standing water is key. Almost anything that will hold water for as little as one week can produce mosquitoes. Remember: when in doubt, dump it out.
"Every possible container around our homes, yards, and communities is holding water and offering its services as a mosquito breeding site," says Elmer Gray, an entomologist with the University of Georgia Extension. "Dumping buckets and rinsing bird baths are obvious steps, but many other habitats are not as readily observed or considered. A common larval habitat around homes and gardens are the dishes and trays associated with potted plants. Basically, anything that can hold water can produce mosquitoes."
These steps can help eliminate breeding areas:
- Eliminate all standing water around houses, businesses, and neighborhoods. When in doubt, dump it out. Check weekly and after it rains to find standing water areas.
- Purchase larvacide briquets in home improvement or lawn and garden stores for use only in standing water that cannot be eliminated. These briquets kill mosquito larvae before they become adults, but do not harm other animals or humans.
- Check rain barrels. They may need larvacide briquets in them if proper insect screening / sealing is not used on openings.
- Prevent and remove litter. Tires, cups, chip bags, cans, bottles, and other litter can provide areas for mosquitoes to grow. Don’t create litter – always properly dispose of your trash and recycling and pick up any litter on and around your property. Want to help even more? Have a group take part in a one-time or recurring cleanup program through Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful (706-613-3512 ext. 309 / accgov.com/kaccb).
- Property with trash, stagnant water, and dumping sites will produce mosquito breeding sites. Report nuisance areas to the ACCGov Code Enforcement Division at 706-613-3790.
- ACCGov only treats standing water that cannot be eliminated on public property. Some natural areas – such as Sandy Creek Nature Center or areas along the Greenway – control mosquitoes using biological methods such as fish or are not treated in order to preserve natural balances. To report public areas that may need treatment, call the ACCGov Transportation & Public Works Department’s Streets & Drainage Division at 706-613-3465.
- Check tarps, covers, and gutters for pockets that collect water. Dump out any water and make changes to prevent more.
- Remove or trim excess vegetation such as ivy to eliminate areas where adult mosquitoes like to rest.
- Clean clogged roof gutters and make sure they drain properly.
- Change or dump out water in plant containers and birdbaths at least weekly. Plant containers can be a particular problem.
- Evaluate any retention ponds that hold water for lengthy periods. Some may need maintenance or corrective work. Contact the ACC Stormwater Management Office at 706-613-3440 with questions about stormwater retention ponds.
- Check outdoor areas and items after rain to determine what holds water.
In addition, here are some practical tips on minimizing bites:
- Stay indoors at dawn, dusk, and early evening when mosquitoes are most active.
- Use insect repellent. Products containing DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus are recommended for use on skin and are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency. Higher percentages of DEET provide longer protection, although amounts over 30% do not provide much-added protection. Use any repellent according to directions. Products with 10-30% concentrations of DEET can be used on children over two months old, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Repellent can be used with sunscreen.
- Long sleeves, pants, socks & shoes allow less exposed skin. Wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing. Mosquitoes are typically attracted to dark colors.
- Use proper light outside: incandescent lights attract mosquitoes, while fluorescent lights neither attract nor repel them.
- Make sure window and bug screens are "bug tight."
- Sit by a fan to repel mosquitoes; they don’t like strong wind currents.
- Keep pets indoors at dawn, dusk, and in the early evening. Don’t apply repellent to animals. Treat dogs to prevent heartworm, a mosquito-borne disease.
Ultrasonic devices and traps have not been shown to provide a noticeable mosquito reduction. Backyard foggers may be helpful if needed, but avoid misters that can be scheduled. You may still need repellent. Devices and foggers only kill adult mosquitoes, so continue removing standing water in order to reduce populations long-term.
For more information on mosquito control, visit www.accgov.com/mosquito or contact the ACC Public Information Office at 706-613-3795.