Mosquito Management: How to Avoid Mosquitoes in your “Backyard”

An example of standing water, a breeding ground for mosquitoes

By Marcia Anderson

With a warm winter, be prepared for an early pest season, which includes mosquitoes. If something can hold water for more than a few days, it is a mosquito breeding habitat.  This article is designed to help you identify stagnant water sources around your home and neighborhood and make some suggestions for their elimination. By reducing mosquito breeding habitats you can reduce mosquito borne diseases, and markedly reduce the need for chemical pesticides.

(Photo via Douglas Allen)

Mosquitoes that live in close association with humans, typically breed in containers that can store water. One non-chemical management approach focuses on reducing the number of mosquitoes near human dwellings and other habitats by minimizing access to water breeding places through the following steps:

1. Mosquito Surveillance: Identify locations and sizes of all stagnant water bodies, including areas with open cisterns, water barrels, basins, catchment basins, storm drains, blocked roof gutters, and all water retaining containers. These are all important mosquito larval habitats.

2. Sanitation:  An essential component of mosquito management is the removal or destruction of domestic breeding sites. The fact is that all mosquitoes need water to breed. By eliminating all standing water and water collecting containers, you can reduce the number of mosquitoes in your backyard. Remove or destroy domestic breeding sites, such as: Discarded appliances, car parts, plastic bags, tarps, food containers, tires or any other debris capable of holding water.

Plastics Management:. Plastics are not only a huge waste problem, but also a key breeding ground for mosquitoes and other disease carrying pests. Many mosquitoes will breed in as little as a bottle-cap full of rainwater. Tires are also a major breeding site for mosquitoes. Removal of abandoned tires from inhabited areas is imperative to mosquito vector control projects.

Other Household Mosquito Breeding Habitats include: Pet water bowls left out for days,  saucers, potted plants, and birdbaths, unused swimming pools or kiddy pools, toys and children’s’ play equipment left outside to collect water, and garbage cans and dumpsters without proper drainage and without adequate covers or lids.

3. Maintenance: If you live in an area with irrigation diversions, swales, open stormwater culverts, or trenches, they need to be maintained to prevent becoming filled with sediment, and plant debris. This will cause ponding or puddles of water that may soon become a mosquito breeding habitat. Clogged gutters and flat roof tops with poor drainage are commonly overlooked mosquito breeding habitats.

4. Maintenance steps to follow: Ensure that drains are unblocked to maintain water flow, drill a few small drainage holes in pots, plastic toys, and garbage cans, drain saucers, tarps, children’s toys within a few days after a rain storm.   If you have large areas of standing water on your property and it is not easily drained, consider biological solutions such as small mosquito fish, gold fish, flatworms or copepods.

Most people do not realize the number of areas around their own homes where mosquitoes can find stagnant water for laying their eggs. The main rule to reduce mosquito populations is to reduce their breeding habitats.   If you live in NYC and notice standing water, please call 311.

About the Author: Marcia is the bed bug and vector management specialist for the Pesticides Program in Edison. She has a BS in Biology from Monmouth, second degree in Environmental Design-Landscape Architecture from Rutgers, Masters in Instruction and Curriculum from Kean, and is a PhD in Environmental Management candidate from Montclair – specializing in Integrated Pest Management and Environmental Communications. Prior to EPA, and concurrently, she has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology and Oceanography at Kean University for 14 years.

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