When it comes to controlling mosquitoes, most of us would love to have a simple spray we could use that would simply eliminate the problem for us – much like a simple spray of hairspray that holds our hair in place, or the spritz of air freshener that makes our living rooms more pleasant.
Unfortunately, the case of mosquitoes is just not that simple. Mosquitoes are not only a prevalent insect, they’re also adaptable. They breed in large numbers and can easily find breeding locations in water sources as small as the pool of water that remains in a tire track in your driveway after a rain.
The only truly effective way to control and eliminate mosquitoes is to eliminate their breeding grounds. However, while you’re working to eliminate their breeding grounds, pesticides can be another tool at your disposal, when properly used, of course. Just don’t expect a quick spray of pesticide to do the entire job for you.
The first class of effective pesticides is known as pyrethrins. These potent insecticides are natural chemicals derived from a special type of marigold flower. They’re neurotoxins, attacking the nervous system of insects. In smaller amounts, they aren’t lethal to insects, but they do have a repellent effect. In fact, many people plant marigolds solely for their repellent effects.
In addition, it’s important to note that pyrethrins are adulticides that kill adult insects – not the larvae that will lead to more mosquitoes. Pyrethrins are fatal to many insects, including fleas and head lice, but are one of the pesticides that’s the least dangerous for mammals. To be safe, don’t use pyrethrins near honeybees or fish. Pyrethrins break down rapidly when exposed to light and air and generally require reapplication, so they’re only part of your mosquito killing strategy.
Methoprenes are another class of pesticides. They are larvicides that target the mosquito in its larval stage. When placed in the water where mosquitoes are incubating, methoprene interferes with the development of the mosquito, which never matures but dies instead. Methoprene is also useful in combating fleas and fire ants.
A suspension of bacillus thuringiensis israelensis can also be used as a larvicide. Released into the water where mosquito larvae are developing, these bacteria attack the digestive system of the larvae, and kill them. However, these bacteria only target developing mosquitoes, so they aren’t effective at controlling the adult populations that already exist.
A final note – if you do plan to use one of these pesticides, it’s important that you follow the label directions to the letter. Overuse and misuse of pesticides can be dangerous and fatal, and can cause serious environmental harm. Be especially cautious when using pesticides near children, pets, and people with immune deficiencies, allergies, or breathing difficulties. Care should also be taken to prevent pesticide from running off into bodies of water. Always keep the pesticides stored in secure containers out of the reach of children, and don’t wear soft, air or gas permeable contact lenses when using pesticides.
Finally, you should be especially careful to avoid getting any pesticides on your skin, or inhaling any vapors from the pesticides. If you begin to experience a reaction to any pesticide, including a rash, blisters, wheezing, or difficulty breathing, call 911 and poison control immediately.