Mosquitoes are a pesky nuisance we’re all too familiar with, especially as we move into the summer months. Their presence can certainly make being outdoors undesirable. Not only are they a blood-sucking nuisance but they also carry and can transmit many diseases to humans. Mosquito-borne diseases of public health concern in Florida include St. Louis encephalitis, eastern equine encephalitis, West Nile virus encephalitis, dengue, and Zika. While it can be difficult to eliminate mosquito populations completely, there are steps we can all take to protect ourselves and to prevent our landscape from becoming a major breeding ground for mosquitos.
One way to keep mosquito populations down is to prevent the landscape from being a breeding ground for them. Many species of mosquitoes require standing water to lay their eggs; therefore, eliminating standing water can help keep populations low. Mosquitoes can develop in a variety of water-holding containers such as flowerpots, birdbaths, pet dishes, tree holes, bamboo trunks, and many others. It is important to:
- Drain water from garbage cans, gutters, buckets, coolers, or any other containers where water is collected
- Discard any old tires, bottles, broken appliances, or items not being used that could potentially hold water
- Change water in birdbaths and/or outdoor pet dishes once or twice a week
For areas such as ornamental ponds or water gardens, aeration or stocking them with mosquitofish (Gambusia species) can also help to keep mosquito populations down. The small fish will feed on the mosquito larvae and add movement to the water. They are most effective in small ponds with no other fish present.
For other areas with standing water that cannot be drained, such as rain barrels or ornamental ponds, products containing Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) are effective in controlling mosquito larvae. Products containing Bti come in the form of granules or “dunks”, which look like miniature donuts. These Bti products are considered a form of biological control as it is a naturally occurring bacteria that is specific to mosquito, blackfly, and fungus gnat larvae. Therefore, Bti products are not harmful to fish, waterfowl, pets or humans when used according to label directions.
Protective Clothing and Repellents
The most effective way to protect yourself from mosquito bites is to avoid infested areas, wear protective clothing, and wear insect repellent when outdoors. There are several repellents that are currently available such as DEET, picaridin, and IR3535, or plant derived chemicals such as citronella and oil of lemon eucalyptus.
It is important to read the label before applying mosquito repellent and to remember that there are different recommendations for frequency of application for different products. Below is a table comparison of products based upon University of Florida research.
Table from UF/IFAS Publication: Mosquito Repellents
For more in-depth information on selecting mosquito repellents, please visit the UF/IFAS Publication: Mosquito Repellents.
For more information about mosquitos, please visit: