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Having Fun with Your Mosquitoes? Chance are you grew them yourself!

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By: CapmWoody

That's right. If you've got mosquitoes in your yard, there's a good chance that they're locals...very local. No matter how they got there, this article will go through all the tactics used to fight them. Bug zappers, ultrasonic repellents, chemical repellents, natural repellents, larvae eaters, carbon dioxide traps, standing water elimination. Then you can decide which ones are best for your own situation.

Interesting Facts about Mosquitoes
* Some mosquitoes can grow to adulthood in as little as a tablespoon of water.
* A mosquito can go from egg to adult in 1 week.
* Mosquitoes can live in our attic or basement over the winter until spring.
* Most mosquitoes don't bite humans - they prefer birds, amphibians, or other mammals.
* Only female mosquitoes bite - they need blood to provide them with enough protein to produce eggs.
* For some reason, black and white fabrics seem to attract the bugs, so try earth tones.

Not-so-Interesting Facts about Mosquitoes
* Your bites are probably coming from mosquitoes that were raised in your own yard.
* The mosquitoes you grow probably won't wander beyond your neighbor's yard unless blown by the wind.
* 90% of the homes in Pinellas County have conditions ideal for mosquito growth.
* Florida has a greater variety (70 species) and greater abundance of mosquitoes than any other state.
* Mosquitoes can carry serious life-threatening diseases.
* Pinellas County will spend just under $4 million this year on mosquito control.

Why do some people get "eaten alive" while others are barely bothered?
There are an estimated 400 chemicals emitted from human skin and about 100 volatile compounds in each human breath that mosquitoes can detect. The combination and amount of chemicals given off is believed to be why some people are more readily bitten than others. Carbon dioxide, water vapor, and heat that result from breathing are believed to be a major factor. Mosquitoes also need cholesterol and B vitamins and this may affect their choice of hosts for their bloody meals.

Disease - Mosquitoes come bearing gifts, heart worms for your pet, West Nile-like virus, encephalitis, yellow fever, denge fever and malaria for you. Several people have died from these disease in the US. Because of this, repelling mosquitoes from our bodies and keeping them from hatching in the environment has become a big business for chemical companies. As a consequence, the most common advice you get about repelling mosquitoes usually involves using toxic repellents containing DEET and the organophosphate pesticide malathion, both suspected neuroxicants.

Bug Zappers - The popularity of these traps are no-doubt due to the never-ending sound effects reminding owners that their investment is working. What they don't realize is that biting insects make up less than 1% of the insects killed by buy zappers. Most of the popping sounds are night-flying moths tricked by the light as they try to navigate by the moon. The longer sizzling sounds are beetles. Because they are heavier than most other flying insects, they have more bulk to fry. Scientific studies find that mosquitoes make up a very small percentage of the bug zapper's collections. Unfortunately, beneficial insects are well represented in the night's catch. Zapper owners are blissfully unaware that their zappers are mostly killing harmless insects that would otherwise serve as food for wildlife.
Ultrasonic Repellents - Scientific evidence shows emphatically that electronic mosquito repelling devices no not work.
Chemical Repellents - The most effective mosquito repellent is a chemical known as DEET (Diethyl-meta-toluamide). It is the active ingredient found in most of the insecticides and repellents on the market today. Although some disagree, it is thought to be safe for use directly on human skin and is approved by the FDA. (FDA? Aren't those the people that keep recalling drugs that they have previously approved?) There are other possibilities that might be safer for body and environment, if not quite as effective.

Make Your Own Repellent - Here is a non-toxic insect repellent you can make at home.
It will keep the mosquitoes away while not chasing the people away too.
Essential Oil - 10 to 25 drops Pennyroyal, Lemon Balm (citronella), Thyme, Rosemary or Lavender
Vegetable Oil - 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Aloe Vera Gel - 1 tablespoon (optional)
Combine the ingredients in a glass jar. Shake to blend. Dab a few drops on your skin or clothing.

Carbon Dioxide Emitting Devices - Since mosquitoes are attracted to CO2 (people emit CO2), several products have come out using this method of attracting, catching and killing them. Prices vary depending on the size of their effective work area and by the quality of the product itself. MegaCatch Alpha is such a product starting at $99.

Garlic? - Who knew! Mosquitoes can't tolerate garlic. Supposedly only one treatment will keep mosquitoes, ticks, fleas and gnats out of your yard for up to a month. The product is called Mosquito Barrier. It's a strong liquid garlic made from very potent garlic cloves, much more potent than the garlic found in grocery stores. The odor of it chases them out of the area and they stay away for as long as they can detect the odor. The odor of sprayed garlic juice becomes undetectable to humans within minutes, but because mosquitoes odor sensing antennae are 10,000 times more sensitive than the human nose, they will still detect it for up to a month and more and will stay away from the sprayed area. And best of all, unlike harmful chemicals it doesn't kill bees or butterflies and is completely safe for children, fish, birds, dogs, cats and other pets. Garlic Mosquito Barrier costs $84.95 for a gallon, claimed to be a years supply. Smaller quantities are available. One site that offers this is www.mosquitobarrier.com .

Throw the Kitchen Sink at them - Then there's the "Throw-the-wallet-at-it" approach. There's a product called the Bite Shield Mosquito Trap that is supposed to clear out a whole acre of the pesky blood-suckers. It looks like a small gas grill and actually does burn propane. Once the trap has been lit, it will operate for three to five weeks continuously, capturing mosquitoes on a single tank of 20 pound tank of propane depending on environmental conditions. It uses all of the proven mosquito attractants such as carbon dioxide, moisture, heat, blue light, and octenol to draw the mosquitoes away from you and into the trap. Bite Shield Cordless Mosquito Traps sell for $499.99.

Plant a Mosquito Repellent Garden - It's not commonly known, but there are attractive plants you can include in your garden that will repel mosquitoes naturally. While they won't won't eliminate them completely the way a spray repellent might, they can still assist in keeping hordes of the pests out of your yard which in turn will keep you from being eaten alive while spending time outdoors. With all of these plants, the leaves must be crushed to release the aroma. Otherwise mosquitoes can’t smell them. And, with rosemary and catnip, you can simply crush a few leaves and rub on your skin and clothing to enhance the effect.

Citronella Grass - The grass is actually the source of the oil used in the candles and lanterns. But there is one drawback, it can grow as high as six feet tall, which may make it unsuitable from some yards.

Horsemint - This plant has a scent similar to citronella. Horsemint grows wild in most of the Eastern United States and is partial to sandy soils. Native Americans used it as a treatment for colds and flu. It has natural fungicidal and bacterial retardant properties because it’s essential oils are high in thymol.

Catnip - It's not just ideal for entertaining your cat. Ordinary catnip is one of the most powerful mosquito repellant plants. Recent studies have shown that it is ten times more effective than DEET at repelling mosquitoes. It's easy to grow from seed, and quickly reseeds. It flowers are a delicate shade of blue. Aside from its intoxicating effects on cats, the leaves make a very soothing tea.

Rosemary - Is a wonderful herb that we use for seasoning, but it's also a great, natural mosquito repellant. It has been used for centuries to keep pesky mosquitoes away. You can get a good quality rosemary essential oil; mix 4 drops with cup olive oil. Store in a cool, dry place. When it comes to fresh plant oils as natural mosquito repellants, there is every reason to have the plant in your yard. It's an inexpensive and attractive way to boost the appearance of the landscape, have seasoning for your food and a natural mosquito repellants as well.

Marigolds - Insects and humans alike may not love the scent of marigolds, however there's no denying they have excellent repellent qualities that not only drive mosquitoes away, but also other insects known for attacking vegetable plants and aphids. They also grow vibrant flowers in hues of lemon yellow, dark orange and shades of red.

Mosquito Plants - Many have questioned its usefulness as a mosquito repellant, but it is attractive enough to warrant planting for it’s ornamental value. It was genetically engineered to incorporate the properties of citronella into a hardier plant. These are most commonly available via mail order and online ordering.

Agastache Cana - Another Mosquito Plant also known as hummingbird mint, bubblegum mint, or giant hyssop. It's a member of the mint family and its leaves have a pungent aroma when crushed. It blooms late summer to early fall, so it catches hummingbirds on their annual migration. The long, medium pink flowers reel in butterflies as well.

Ageratum - This small bedding plant shown in the photo,  contains coumarin, and mosquitoes detest the smell. It is used in the perfume industry and even in some commercial mosquito repellants. Don’t rub ageratum on your skin, though. It has some other less desirable elements that you don’t want to keep on your skin in quantity. Ageratums are annuals, and they come in a muted blue and white that compliments most other plantings.

With all of these plants, the leaves must be crushed to release the aroma. Otherwise mosquitoes can’t smell them. With rosemary and catnip, you can simply crush a few leaves and rub on your skin and clothing to enhance the effect. And you can also use them to create an all-natural repellent by crushing the leaves or flowers and placing the resulting oil in alcohol or vodka. Once the oils have infused the liquid they can be used the same way as that bottle of DEET.

Cheap, organic AND good looking? Why not? That's the way we like to do it these days.

What Works Best? - Many of the approaches listed above can help reduce your mosquito problem to a degree, but the cheapest and easiest way to control your mosquito population is to simply keep them from ever being born in the first place. This might seem like a daunting task. How would you get them all into family planning classes? And getting billions of mosquitoes to wear tiny tiny teeny weeny condoms is about as impractical as it gets. So we've come up with a better plan called "habitat destruction." That's really all there is to it. Their habitat is standing water and without it they simply cannot reproduce.

So Here's What to Look for........
Any receptacle that can hold water, like tin cans, old tires, buckets, bar-b-que grills, ash trays or other containers. Potted plants with pans underneath are good breeding sites. So don't over-water your potted plants and water will not collect in the pans. If it can hold water, it can be a mosquito nursery. Unused or lightly used kiddie pools or hot tubs make very good breeding areas. Repair leaky pipes, outside faucets and make sure your air conditioner doesn't drain water into places where it can accumulate and stand. Change the water in flower vases twice a week. If you're growing cuttings, try growing them in sand. Clean out bird baths twice weekly, empty watering pans of pets daily. Make sure the rain water drains completely out of your boat. If it's a small boat, turn it upside down. Keep your roof gutters clean. Water-filled holes in trees are a favorite breeding site, so fill those holes with sand or mortar. Flush your bromeliads twice weekly. Flat roofs that get lots of leaf litter can harbor mosquitoes, so clean off the water holding debris. Even keeping your grass mowed can help.

If you have ornamental ponds, stock them with fish that eat mosquito larvae. Common goldfish, killifish, and guppies are three types of fish that are known to eat mosquito larvae and will get along well with other fish. If you have a pond or any water source that does not have any fish, consider adding some gambusia affinis, better known as the mosquito fish. Mosquito fish are about an inch long and look similar to a guppy. A large female gambusia is capable of consuming over two hundred mosquito larvae in an hour. They are very aggressive fish and begin attacking the larvae when they are only a couple hours old. You do not have to worry about them over-populating since they are also very aggressive towards each other. Unfortunately, they will also attack dragonfly larvae (which are another predator to mosquito larvae) and will be aggressive toward other fish and tadpoles.

Ultrasonic repellents and bug zappers are hoaxes that are marketed solely for economic gain. Mosquito fighting plants can be somewhat effective, but only if the leaves are crushed to release their scent. They are more effective when applied to the skin. Carbon dioxide traps are marginally effective. Bats and birds can help in reducing the population but even bats and birds combined can only make a small dent in the population. Purple Martins specifically have been thought to eat large quantities of mosquitoes, but scientific studies have failed to bear this out, finding that only a miniscule portion of the Purple Martin's diet consists of mosquitoes. Numerous studies have shown that birds remove an extremely small portion of mosquitoes.

The bottom line is you've got to get them before they become adults. There is no substitute for prevention. It is by far the most effective way of significantly reducing the number of biting mosquitoes. It only takes a few days to produce a crop of hungry mosquitoes. Stop them from feeding on you and your family by eliminating them before they even start. If each of us does his and her own part in keeping our own yards free of mosquitoes, we'll have a happier and healthier community. Pinellas County Mosquito Control is eager to help you get your home grown mosquitoes under control. You can call them at 727-464-7503  or e-mail pwmsqtoweb@co.pinellas.fl.us

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