The Zika virus is in the news and is a major problem according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Most recently it has caused a lot of problems in Brazil, where people are not only getting the virus, but there are cases of microcephaly as well and the relationship between the two diseases is not known. Recently it has been suggested that the microcephaly has developed in some people because of the pesticides used to control the mosquitoes. Most people in the United States who have developed the Zika virus have recently traveled to areas where it is common.
Zika is vectored by mosquitoes and the one species known to carry it is the yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti). This species if found throughout the tropical region of the world. In the United States, it is found in the southeast portion of the country with small populations in Arizona and New Mexico and the Bay area of California.
It is important to control mosquitoes, not only because of Zika, but because of West Nile Virus (WNV), encephalitis and other dangerous diseases. Mosquitoes are small, slender, biting flies. They have a long, thin mouth part designed for piercing the skin and sucking out blood. They require water to lay their eggs. If you have mosquitoes, make sure you wear a good non-DEET mosquito repellent when you go outside. Never use the DEET products as DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamine) is a chemical that some people have severe reactions to. It is a fact that DEET works well as long as it is full strength. However, when it begins to weaken, it actually attracts mosquitoes and you have to put more on, which means absorbing more of the chemicals into your system. Most non-DEET products (catnip, citronella, and lemongrass) are effective for two or three hours before having to be reapplied, but they do not contain potentially dangerous chemicals. Citronella and pennyroyal both work but have side affects. Pennyroyal may increase the risk of a miscarriage if you are pregnant and citronella has been known to attract female black bears. Test anything you put on your skin on a small portion first to make sure you aren’t allergic to it. Again, never use repellents that contain DEET.
You have to reduce standing water where mosquitoes can breed. Some species of mosquitoes only need a half inch of standing water and eggs of some species can hatch in a week or so. Make sure you change any pets drinking water and birdbath water.
Keep grass cut and shrubbery trimmed to minimize hiding places for adult mosquitoes.
Make sure there are no old tires on your property. If you have to have some, drill holes in them so water will drain.
Any plastic or metal containers should be upside down so they can’t collect water.
If you have plastic tarps or plastic on the ground anywhere, folds in the plastic can gather water. Check frequently.
Check plants with large leaves that may collect water in axils, where the leaves join the stem. Tip the plant over if in a pot or flush it at least weekly to disrupt any mosquito breeding.
Check water in bottom of plant containers, including hanging plants.
Check holes in trees or stumps that may collect water.
You can add food grade diatomaceous earth to any standing water to kill mosquito larvae.
It wouldn’t hurt to build a bat house and encourage bats. A single bat can eat several thousand mosquitoes in one night.
Make sure all screens on doors, windows and vents are functional.
If you have cots or picnic tables outside that you may use in the evening, mosquito netting will help.
If you have adult mosquitoes in your grass or bushes, you can spray them with repellents. Catnip is a good repellent according to a report from Iowa State University. Other good repellents include lemongrass, basil, birch, mint, rosemary, spearmint and yarrow. Geraniums or basil plants planted near your doors will repel mosquitoes.