Once it turns hot after a wet period, mosquito populations flourish. Elmer Gray, a Cooperative Extension entomologist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, advises that now is the time to take action.
Knowing the different stages of the mosquito’s life cycle will help you prevent mosquitoes around your home and also help you choose the right pesticides for your needs, should you decide to use them.
All mosquito species go through four distinct stages during their life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The first three stages occur in water.
Only in the adult stage will female mosquitoes bite and feed on the blood of humans or other animals. After the female obtains a blood meal, she lays her eggs directly on or near water, soil and at the base of some plants in places that may fill with water. The eggs can survive dry conditions for months!
Once exposed to water the eggs hatch and a larva or “wriggler” emerges. The length of time to hatch depends on water temperature, food and mosquito species. The larva lives, feeds, and develops into the third stage of the life cycle called, a pupa or “tumbler.” The pupa also lives in the water but no longer feeds.
Finally, the mosquito emerges from the pupal case after two days to a week. The life cycle typically takes up two weeks, but depending on conditions, it can range from 4 days to a month. The adult mosquito emerges onto the water’s surface and flies away, ready to rear a new generation of mosquitoes.
Considering the nature of this pest’s life cycle, the best way to prevent mosquitoes is to eliminate their habitat. Given our current rainy conditions, extreme diligence is required to eliminate standing water. Begin your control measures by cleaning out your gutters and searching for any containers (and other items) that may collect standing water. Common items include drip pans under flowerpots, wheelbarrows, water bowls for pets, birdbaths, and old tires.
If standing water cannot be eliminated and you see mosquito larvae, commonly called “wigglers,” or mosquito pupae, commonly called “tumblers,” then the site should be treated with an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved larvicide or pupacide. Local garden centers or feed-and-seed stores typically carry these products. Only use larvicides to treat large containers of water that will not be used for drinking and cannot be covered or dumped out. For example, small ornamental water gardens and ponds can be treated with a “larvicide” a tablet that has chemicals targeting the mosquito larvae. Read and follow all label instructions when applying treatments for mosquitoes.
Adult mosquitoes can be controlled by several methods. Apply insect repellants containing a chemical called DEET when outside or in high-risk areas. Wear light colored protective clothing, long pants, long-sleeve shirts, shoes and socks during prime feeding times and in locations of high mosquito populations. Keep screened doors and windows in good repair.
Remember, solely using insecticides will not keep your home free of mosquitoes, rather chemical control should be used as a supplement to breaking the life cycle by dumping standing water. Follow all label directions and safety precautions when using chemical insecticides. The label is the law!
Pet owners should also take time now to make sure their pets are up to date on heartworm preventative treatments.