Warm, wet weather has led to the early arrival of the West Nile virus this year. The pools of standing water left from the rains serve as excellent breeding places for mosquitoes, including those that carry the West Nile virus.
Since the West Nile virus was first identified in the U.S. in 1999, mosquitoes have become more than just a nuisance. They have contributed to more than 16,000 West Nile virus cases and 600 deaths in this country alone. Although mosquitoes are expected to be out in full force this summer, homeowners can help reduce mosquito populations in their areas with the following steps:
- Clear standing water from your landscape. With a wetter-than-normal spring, many homeowners now have standing water in their yards. Because mosquitoes lay their eggs in stagnant water, the best way to decrease the mosquito population around the home is to eliminate this habitat. To do so, cover, empty or remove containers that hold water; clean out gutters and drainage ditches; and replace water in flower pots and birdbaths every three to four days.
- Create movement in stagnant water. Water can’t always be eliminated when you have pools and ponds on your landscape. Another option for stagnant water sources is to add a water pump, fountain or waterfall. Also, swimming pools and hot tubs make great mosquito habitats. Homeowners should ensure that these bodies of water are chlorinated according to the manufacturer’s directions and covered when not in use.
- Consult your local public health department or pest control professional. Health departments and pest control professionals can help you locate potential mosquito habitats and treat them with environmentally friendly larvicides. These products kill mosquito larvae before they can become biting adult mosquitoes. You should also check with your local public health department to ensure larvicide is being used near your home and in other parts of your community.