Mosquitoes are one of the most annoying pests of humans and other animals. Their rapid wing movement produces a distinctive high-pitched sound, and their bites cause red, itchy, welts. Mosquitoes are more than just a nuisance; they also serve as carriers (vectors) of several disease-causing agents.
Mosquitoes are small, slender flies that are members of the family Culicidae. There are at least fifty known species of mosquitoes in Alabama.
Feeding Habits of Adult Mosquitoes
Mosquitoes locate their food sources by using chemical cues and odor. As the mosquito comes near a potential host, moist air from the host and visual cues become important. Mosquitoes use chemical cues to help decide where to land on a host. Carbon dioxide exhaled by animals, including humans, is an example of a chemical cue used by mosquitoes. Repellents work by “confusing” the mosquito, keeping it from landing on or biting the intended host.
Mosquitoes may be either “specialists,” feeding on birds, mammals, reptiles, or amphibians; or “generalists” that will readily attack whatever comes along. Some mosquitoes will actively bite only at night, while others will feed during the day or at sunrise or sunset.
How Can I Control Mosquitoes?
You may not have containers with standing water, but your neighbor may, or water may be collecting in a ditch somewhere in the neighborhood. Three methods used to prevent mosquito infestations are: sanitizing to reduce breeding sites, using physical methods of control, and using control products.
The first step in sanitizing is to eliminate the breeding sites of the mosquitoes. It is also very important to manage vegetation because adult mosquitoes rest on dense vegetation during the day. Cut tall weeds, and keep shrubs and trees trimmed away from the house to increase air circulation. Here are a few other sanitation tips:
• Clean debris from rain gutters;
• Eliminate standing water on and around structures such as flat roofs, and air conditioner units, and leaky pipes and faucets;
• Change the water in birdbaths and wading pools weekly; and
• Change the water in pet bowls daily.
Physical control methods focus on excluding mosquitoes from the indoors and include the following:
• Install screens that are sixteen to eighteen mesh;
• Screen the chimney and other vent flues during mosquito season. Be sure to remove screens during the winter;
• Repair broken screens on windows, doors, and porches;
• Keep doors closed if not screened; and
• Caulk cracks and crevices where insects can enter.
Control products and materials
There are a number of products and materials that can be used alone or in combination to control mosquitoes. These methods of control can be directed toward either larvae or adults and are categorized as larvicides or adulticides.
For more help or to ask questions, visit www.aces.edu or call 256-232-5510.