Last year, Denton County had a high number of West Nile virus occurrences, along with the rest of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. This is something that we hope not to repeat. There are steps that you can take as an individual to protect yourself and make the community safer.
Many of these facts are being broadcast widely and are surely becoming familiar to you. Pay attention to the recommendations and encourage those people in your sphere of influence to do the same.
Drain any standing water around your house. As you know, mosquitoes fly around and are pretty small. When they are not flying, they like to hang out in trees and shrubs and aren’t very noticeable.
The particular mosquito that carries the West Nile virus likes to hang out higher up in trees. But as larvae, mosquitoes live in water. It’s much easier to kill mosquitoes at this stage than wait until they become flying adults.
It doesn’t take a lot of water to make a mosquito breeding site. It doesn’t take very long either — one or two weeks of standing water, especially mixed in with some leaves or soil, and you have a hospitable environment for those little buggers.
If you can’t drain the water, for whatever reason, you can use Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), a bacteria that kills mosquito larvae in water. One common brand is Mosquito Dunks.
Another option you may not have thought about is treating the doorways and screens around your house. Pyrethroid sprays, such as those containing lambda-cyhalothrin or cyfluthrin, can control mosquitoes in shady areas around the house for weeks. This can help cut down on mosquitoes slipping into your house after resting on the doorway.
Personal protection is your best defense. Dressing in long sleeves and pants can cut down on your exposure to mosquito bites. Using an insect repellent is also recommended for individual protection.
DEET is the most commonly recommended because of its effectiveness. However, the Environmental Protection Agency has put together information on many different repellents along with their effectiveness, protection period and active ingredient, available on line at http://cfpub.epa.gov/oppref/insect. This list includes many things that you may be surprised to see, such as Avon Skin So Soft and lemon eucalyptus oil.
For all you ever wanted to know about mosquitoes including how to videos on controlling them yourself, check out Extension entomologist Mike Merchant’s website at http://citybugs.tamu.edu. And Denton County has an informational website on West Nile virus, with facts and stats and further information, at www.dentoncounty.com/WNV. Or call the Denton County West Nile Virus Information Line at 940-349-2907.
JANET LAMINACK is the horticulture county extension agent with Texas AgriLife Extension. She can be reached at 940-349-2883 or firstname.lastname@example.org.