West Nile & Zika Virus

Protect yourself from ZikaSharks, snakes and snipers can be deadly, but the humble mosquito is actually the world’s most dangerous animal. An estimated 750,000 people will die worldwide this year as the result of a tiny bite, whereas only around 450,000 will be killed by other humans.

It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles. While introspection is always elusive, knowing your mosquito enemies isn’t too difficult. A little understanding can go a long way to help you protect yourself and your family from mosquito borne diseases. Here are a few facts you can use to your advantage:

Mosquitoes must have water
Adult mosquitoes may rest in trees and shrubs, but mosquitoes live most of their lives in water. If there are fish in that water, they will eat the mosquito larvae. Mother mosquitoes look for standing water that hasn’t been and is therefore unlikely to be disturbed. Mosquito trappers often call this “stank” water, and they make it themselves by putting some organic material, usually grass clippings, in a small container of water. You can make it yourself by allowing water to sit in a birdbath, on a boat tarp, in gutters, in a bucket, or in what most experts consider to be a perfect mosquito breeding site, an old tire. Take time to dump or drain any standing water on your property. If you can’t or don’t want to drain standing water, add a larvacide. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) mosquito dunks or granules are safe, effective and widely available.

Mosquitoes can fly, but they can’t fly far
The mosquito species that transmit human disease can only fly about 200 yards. The mosquitoes that transmit WNV (Culex spp.) do get moved around by their bird hosts, but those that transmit Zika, Chikungunya, and Dengue, have been living almost exclusively “with” people since the days of the Ancient Egyptians. Think globally but act locally is a good motto for dealing with mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes can be easily confused
You may think it is hard to hide from a hungry mosquito, but repellents act by confusing their odor receptors. If they can’t smell you, they won’t bite you. For many years, the go to insect repellent was DEET, but The Centers for Disease Control now recommends four active ingredients as safe and effective. DEET is still the longest lasting choice, but Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, Picaridin, and IR3535 are also great options for keeping mosquitoes away. Always read and follow label instructions and plan to reapply at recommended intervals.

You are definitely smarter than your average little fly, and if you want to gain an even greater advantage, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension has a wealth of information available online including:

What Texans Need to Know About Zika Virus (ENTO-052)
Mosquitoes and the Diseases they Transmit (ENTO-040)
Buzz Off (ENTO-055)
Do-it-yourself Backyard Mosquito Control (ENTO-054)

Laura Miller
County Extension Agent-Horticulture
Tarrant County Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

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