6 ways to bite back at mosquitoes this summer

Mosquito bites wMosquito season is here, and this year homeowners in Maryland are especially alert for the pesky predators.

“Mosquitoes are definitely a potential public health threat,” says Daniel Schamberger, acting program manager for mosquito control at the Maryland Department of Agriculture. “We are calling on all homeowners to take a look at your property and see what can be done to minimize breeding grounds for mosquitoes.”

With the widespread emergence of the Zika virus, as well as several confirmed cases of West Nile in Maryland last year, mosquitoes have become public enemy No. 1. The Maryland Department of Agriculture began surveillance of the mosquito population in early spring by examining wetlands and actively searching for mosquito larvae.

“We have intensified our trapping program more than ever this year and are actively trying to identify the presence of the two mosquito species that can carry the Zika virus,” Schamberger says.

In addition to surveillance, the MDA Mosquito Control Program uses larvicide and widespread community spraying for adult mosquitoes, but officials say the best defense is to prevent the mosquito population from growing at all.

To keep mosquitoes in your yard to a minimum this summer, follow these simple steps:

  • Keep toys, garden equipment and patio furniture dry and clean and don't leave items that collect water, such as wheelbarrows, buckets or birdbaths, out when it rains. Water is the single biggest attraction for mosquitoes to lay eggs, and they only need a teaspoon of water to do so. “Inspect your property regularly,” Schamberger says. “By emptying any standing water every seven to 10 days, homeowners can sizably reduce [mosquitoes] ability to multiply.”
  • Add a drop of oil to the surface of rain barrels, which will prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs.
  • Keep the lawn mowed and plants trim and tidy. Mosquitoes love to hide in damp, dense, and dark plants and vegetation.
  • Consider mosquito-repelling plants like catnip, scented geranium (also known as “the mosquito plant” for its repellant qualities), lemongrass, lemon thyme or lemon eucalyptus (the main ingredient in most natural mosquito repellants). “Most of the plants that repel mosquitoes are herbs and small plants,” says Natalie Wilson, manager of the greenhouse and the annuals department at Homestead Gardens in Davidsonville. “Place them [in planters] near doorways, and mosquitoes will stay outside.”
  • Use a dimmer patio light, like General Electric yellow “Bug Lights,” which attract fewer bugs than other outdoor incandescent lights, according to the American Mosquito Control Association.
  • Try a fan on your patio or deck. Mosquitoes are weak fliers and a fan could help keep them away.

By Katie Riley

Click here learn more about the Zika virus.