Get Pests to Buzz Off
The science of mosquito management
Cynthia Bates from the OKC-County Health Department
News stories about mosquito-borne illnesses can put a serious damper on excitement about the arrival of spring.
Chatting with two experts, Cynthia Bates from the OKC-County Health Department and Reed Savage of SWAT Mosquito Mist Systems, sheds some light on the issue; here’s a quick guide about mosquito safety once the temperatures pick up.
Your options for mosquito protection can be as simple as “look for standing water and get rid of it,” while wearing a DEET-containing repellent, or as in-depth as installing a system designed to periodically spray your property.
Bates says, “In the spring, at home, we recommend that people walk around their property and look for stagnant ponds or clogged gutters. If you have older neighbors who aren’t able to remove stagnant water bodies on their property, consider offering to help. Not only to reduce the mosquito potential for the neighborhood, but also because the elderly are at a greater risk of developing the more severe symptoms of mosquito-borne illnesses. The recommendation for personal protection is to wear long sleeves and long pants as much as possible, and use a mosquito repellent that contains DEET.”
Savage’s business is predicated on mosquito protection, and while he offers the standard service of yard sprays done by an individual, he believes that the best solution is one that offers more comprehensive coverage.
“Yard sprays that involve a mobile unit kill everything they hit, and also act as a repellent,” he says. As long as it lasts, it will repel mosquitoes. The negative of that is that the typical length of effect is just 21 days, (and) if it rains the next day, your effectiveness is taken down.”
But he has options that will mitigate heat and water. “We offer a system we install to spray the yard at daily intervals. It comes on two to three times, usually scheduled at night, and sprays for about 30 to 90 seconds. Same thing; it kills what it hits when it sprays, and has a residual effect also, but you’re getting a daily dose, not one every 21 days.”
AT THE LAKE, ON THE TRAIL, IN THE WILD
Since there isn’t as much maintenance in less-populated outdoor areas, your risk of a mosquito bite may go up. Even if you seem to do okay without repellent in your backyard, consider that a hike or weekend float trip will probably necessitate protective measures. “If you’re in a wooded area, we usually recommend a stronger repellent,” Bates says. “Especially if you’re going to be out for quite a while.”
UNDERSTANDING THE CHALLENGE
As Sun Tzu said in the Art of War, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” It’s helpful to know a little about the breeding cycle of mosquitoes when you want to fight them, and it’s also beneficial to understand that you will indeed have (at least) 100 battles, no matter what your precautions are.
Bates says, “We don’t want people to decrease precautions in terms of clothing or repellent, so we don’t predict mosquito counts. But sometimes we see when there are high temperatures, and then a high rainfall with a dry period afterward, resulting in higher possibility of more stagnant water in ponds … mosquitoes have more time to lay eggs that develop into adults.”
Savage also offers a reminder that total obliteration of your winged opponents isn’t really possible. “If you have the elements to provide a breeding ground, installing a system or having your property sprayed is only addressing part of the problem. I tell people, ‘It should never be bad enough that you can’t go outside, but you have to realize that this is all mosquito management.’”
The long and the short of it is that you should enjoy summer, enjoy life and take the amount of precaution that your situation and comfort level warrant.