EDITOR DANIEL CLIFTON
You can slap them, zap them, and cuss them, but mosquitoes are here to stay. And with the abundance of rain in the Highland Lakes this spring, you can almost guarantee it will be a banner year for the pesky biters.
Mosquitoes are more than just pests. They can transmit diseases, and, though a rare occurrence, some of these can put human health at risk.
But what can you do to get a handle on the ubiquitous insects?
Retired Burnet County AgriLife Extension Agent Wade Hibler said it all hinges on the rule of Ds: dawn/dusk, drain, DEET.
“Those absolutely have to be followed first, before anything else,” said Hibler, the host of the “Ask Wade Ag Report” on KBEY 103.9 FM Radio Picayune.
“Don’t be outside at dusk or dawn,” Hibler advised, “because that’s when mosquitoes are most active.”
If you are outside during these times, Hibler recommends using insect repellant containing DEET.
“It works,” he said.
Chemists, who know the ingredient as N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide, created it in the 1940s for military use. It became commercially available in 1957 and remains a top inspect repellant. It doesn’t kill mosquitoes but keeps them and bugs such as ticks, fleas, and chiggers from landing on you.
According to a 2018 Consumer Reports article, the most effective repellants contain 15-30 percent DEET.
Non-DEET options that might be effective are those with picaridin (20 percent) or lemon eucalyptus oil (30 percent).
It’s also a good idea to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when out during dawn or dusk. Along with providing another barrier against mosquitoes, you can apply repellents to the clothing instead of your skin.
And now the last D: drain.
“You have to go around your yard and look for any bucket, planter, pots, or anything that holds water and drain it,” Hibler said.
Mosquito larvae thrive in these places. The best way to curtail the reproductive cycle of mosquitoes is to deny them places to lay their eggs. The eggs hatch when exposed to water, and the next stages, larva and pupa, also depend on water before becoming adults.
Hibler acknowledged you might have things in your yard or around your house that can’t be drained. He recommends adding vegetable oil to the water.
“Water and oil don’t mix, so the oil settles on top,” he said. “That forms a film over the water, which keeps the larvae from getting air.”
Products such as MosquitoDunks are another option. You drop them in places that hold water that you can’t drain. Hibler said the product contains Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, which is a bacteria toxic to mosquito larvae after it is eaten. It’s not dangerous to wildlife, pets, or people.
“Again, those are for things you can’t drain,” Hibler said. “If you can drain it or dump the water, do it. And keep checking those places and things that hold water and drain them when more gets in.”
If you use your porch or yard regularly, Hibler said citronella candles and bug zappers can help keep the area mosquito-free, though it’s best to place the zappers away from where people are gathering because they draw insects to them.
When hosting a big event, such as a wedding or a reception, consider a machine that draws in mosquitoes and other insects by a variety of methods, including moisture, heat, scents, and lures. The propane-fueled device then traps the mosquitoes, and they die.
“They’re on the expensive side, but if you’re having a wedding or something big like that, you might want to look into getting two or three,” Hibler said.
But first things first.
“You have to take care of the (rule of) Ds first,” Hibler said.