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HOW TO GET RID OF MOSQUITOES

What are Mosquitoes?

What’s annoying, buzzes, bites and spreads diseases?

The mosquito.

The mosquito (scientific name Culicidae, and member of Diptera, the same group as true flies) is a small flying pest with the power to drive people indoors. Just the sight or sound of one can invoke an irrational violent tirade with a fly swatter. Just thinking about them can make you want to scratch.

Let's be honest - they take the fun out of summer, a relaxing night by the fire, or a much-anticipated outdoor event.

There are 3,000+ species of mosquitoes in the world, of which around 60 are home to Ontario. Here in Ontario, and other parts of Canada, they are a nuisance pest between May and September. Mosquitoes are most active between dusk and dawn, but they can be active at any time of the day. During the day, they often inhabit shaded areas or will be more widespread during overcast conditions. Mosquitoes avoid hot sunny days as they will dry out and die in these conditions.

While despised by humans, mosquitoes play an important role in our ecosystem. They are a dependable food source for many animals found in your garden or outdoors, including frogs, birds, dragonflies and bats.

 

What do Mosquitoes Look Like?

Adult mosquitoes are 3-9 mm in length, with a single set of wings, a long nose (called a proboscis) and long thin legs. Their wings and body are covered with tiny scales. Female mosquitoes are usually larger than males, and only females use their proboscis to bite and draw blood.

a mosquito on a a person

Often, mosquitos are mistaken for flies. To help you tell the difference:

  • Flies are generally smaller than mosquitoes.
  • Flies do not have a prominent proboscis.
  • Many species of flies do not bite.

Mosquitoes have antenna which are covered with plume (hair) that help them hear. Males have large and feathery plumes, and use these to locate females for mating. Female’s antenna appears more smooth and sleek in comparison.

 

What do Mosquitoes Eat?

Mosquitoes eat blood and nectar from flowers and other plant sugars. Female mosquitoes also feed on human or animal blood post mating because it gives needed nourishment for egg generation and development.  Some mosquito species will cannibalize other mosquitos and a few species exist where female mosquitoes only feed on plant nectar and other plant sugars (no blood), like males.

Given the number of mosquito bites one can accumulate in a single evening by a camp fire, it’s hard not to believe that they love feeding on humans. Mosquitoes do prefer to feed on cattle, horses and birds.

 

The Lifecycle of a Mosquito

All mosquito species go through four distinct stages in their life cycle - egg, larvae, pupa, and adult. The first 3 stages of the mosquito life cycle take place in water. The length of time between egg to adult depends on the species, water and temperature. A complete life cycle can occur in less than 10 days.

After mating, female mosquitoes will seek a blood meal to aid in their egg production. Because mosquitoes grow in still-water or slow-moving water, females will often lay her eggs in standing pools of water (natural or man-made). Mosquito eggs can survive for months in dry locations, so eggs will also be deposited in dry areas near water. Their life cycle will resume once the area becomes flooded or wet enough. While it varies by species, females can produce between 100 and 400 eggs at a single laying, and can lay eggs every few days. 

Usually within a few days, tiny worm-like larvae hatch. They are coined ‘wigglers’ for their wiggle-like swimming movement in the standing water. Larvae will live near the water’s surface where they will breathe through tubes and feed on organic matter as they develop. They molt several times before pupating.

During the pupa stage, they are referred to as tumblers, which again describes their submerging-like movement in the standing water to flee from possible predators. They still breathe near the surface, but they no longer feed. Within a few days, they emerge from the water as adults.

An adult mosquito will take flight soon after, once they dry off, and their exoskeleton hardens. Within a couple of days, the reproductive organs of a male mosquito are developed, and they will mate with a female. Males typically die 3-5 days post mating. Females will mate only once, and keep laying eggs after each blood meal. Female mosquitoes can live up to 1 month.

 

Do Mosquitoes Bite?

Yes, mosquitoes bite. Only female mosquitoes have the mouth parts necessary for sucking blood, which is used for egg production. When biting with her proboscis, she stabs two tubes into the victim’s skin - one to inject an enzyme that inhibits blood clotting, and the other to suck blood into her own body.

Mosquitoes detect animals and people through sensing and fixating on exhaled carbon dioxide, body odors, temperature, and movement.

 

Do Mosquito Bites Cause an Allergic Reaction?

Yes, mosquito bites can trigger allergic reactions in some people. Reactions will differ person to person, ranging from redness to mild irritation and rash, to intense inflammation and even swelling.  If you are concerned about a reaction to a mosquito bite, seek medical attention.

 

Do Mosquitoes Transmit Diseases?

Yes, mosquitoes can transmit diseases anywhere in the world. Mosquitoes can be hosts to parasites and virus, and can pass these on to humans though biting and feeding or from saliva alone.

A disproportionate number of deaths caused by mosquito-borne diseases happen to elderly and children living in developing countries.

Not all mosquito species carry or transmit diseases to humans. In fact, there are only 3 species that pose a serious health risk:

  1. The Aedes mosquito species carries yellow fever, dengue, ziki, chikungunya and encephalitis.
  2. The Anopheles mosquito type transmits filariasis (or elephantiasis), encephalitis and are the only carriers of malaria.
  3. The Culex mosquito type carries West Nile virus, filariasis and encephalitis.

 

In Canada, West Nile virus is a serious health concern, but the risk of contracting it or it causing serious illness is low. Here in Ontario, mosquitoes are less of a health concern, and more of a threat to outdoor fun and events. 

If you are going to travel, take precaution by checking for any travel advisories and speak with your doctor about possible vaccines or health risks. For example, the ziki virus which can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus, has no vaccine to prevent contraction, and no treatment.

 

How Can I Protect Myself from Mosquito Bites?

Here are some tips to help you protect against mosquito bites:

  • Keep your body covered by wearing pants, long-sleeved shirts, socks and shoes.
  • Wear loose clothing made of nylon or polyester, which helps keep mosquitoes away from your skin, should they land on you, seeking a nibble.
  • Try using an approved insect repellent.
  • Keep a fly swatter nearby to use when needed.
  • Replace or repair any damaged screens in windows, doors and vents, to keep mosquitoes out.
  • When sleeping outdoors use mosquito netting.
  • Minimize any outdoor activities between dusk and dawn (which is not always possible or fun).

 

Do Mosquitoes Cause Damage?

Mosquitoes do not cause damage to homes or structures. They are an obnoxious, nuisance pest to people, and can cause allergic reactions or spread disease.

 

Signs of a Mosquito Infestation

The most obvious sign of a mosquito infestation is heavy mosquito activity, which includes buzzing and biting. If there are frequent, long-standing sources of water around, whether natural (like ponds and puddles), or man-made (bird baths, old tires, buckets, gardening pots or kids play equipment), this can be a sign that mosquito eggs, larvae and pupae are present, and will be a future problem if not addressed.

 

How to Prevent Mosquitoes

The best way to stop mosquitoes from bothering you is to prevent them. Here are some things you can do to help eliminate mosquito breeding sites around your property:

  • Use lids on your trash bins and recycling receptacles, and store in a shed or garage.
  • Cover rain barrels with a fine, tightly sealed screen.
  • Clean your yard of old tires, damaged flower pots, buckets and any other debris where water collects and stands.
  • For items that must be stored outdoors (watering cans, flower pots, wheelbarrows, canoes or boats), store them upside down.
  • Drill holes in the bottom of any containers that need to be left outdoors uncovered.
  • Flip over kiddie pools, buckets, and other toys that can collect and hold water when not in use.
  • Drill a hole through the bottom of a tire swing to prevent stagnant water accumulation.
  • Change water daily in outdoor pet dishes.
  • Replace water in non-flowing outdoor water features (like bird baths).
  • Keep your rain gutter unclogged to allow water to flow freely.
  • Regularly trim trees and shrubs and cutaway long grasses.
  • Fill hollow tree stumps with sand to prevent water accumulation.
  • Remove dead wood, and yard waste regularly.
  • Fill potholes in your driveway to prevent water accumulation.
  • Repair any leaking outdoor water taps, pipes or hoses to minimize standing pools of water.
  • Keep your swimming pool clean and use chlorine always, and always dump water that collects on its cover.
  • Use oxygenating plants in your ponds to prevent algae, which mosquito larvae feed on.

 

How to Get Rid of Mosquitoes

If you’re looking for ways to get rid of mosquitoes, consider:

  • Following all the tips above to eliminate standing water around your home, business or property.
  • Minimizing outdoor lighting at night to attract less mosquitoes (and other nuisance insects).
  • Planting citronella, rosemary, marigolds or catnip on your property, which have been known to naturally repel mosquitoes.
  • Plant a garden on your property, which will become home to many other insect or animals that are natural predators to mosquitoes (birds, beetles, frogs, dragonflies, bats, etc.)
  • If you have a pond, consider stocking it with fish, which eat mosquito larvae.
  • Use mosquito screens around porches and gazebos.
  • If you plan to leave windows open, do ensure they have tight fitting screen (no holes) to keep mosquitoes from following you indoors.
  • Seek professional help from a licensed mosquito control expert who can help you identify, eliminate and treat mosquito breeding sites.

There are many devices on the market to trap, kill or repel mosquitoes, like bug zappers, sprays, lanterns, coils, and electronic mosquito repellers (which emit a high-frequency sound). These may help you stay outdoors a little longer, but they are not effective solutions for minimizing mosquito populations, which is how to get rid of mosquitoes.

To effectively get rid of mosquitoes, prevention is key.

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