The common practices that must be implemented to avoid mosquito bites are the same regardless of the mosquito-disease (e.g. virus) relationship. The three primary practices that will help to avoid mosquito problems include:
1) Source reduction
2) Personnel protection
First of all, mosquito populations can be effectively reduced by routinely eliminating all mosquito breeding sites associated with stagnant or standing water. Any items or areas in the garden that may collect water may provide breeding sites for mosquitoes. These include the following: wheelbarrows, pet food or water dishes, saucers underneath flower pots, buckets, tires, toys, wading pools, birdbaths, ditches and equipment. In addition, be sure that gutters drain properly and do not collect water.
The mosquito that vectors the Zika virus is Aedes aegyptii, which also transmits yellow fever, dengue and chikungunya. In general, Aedes spp., mosquitoes feed during the day, breed in fresh water, and prefer feeding on people. Therefore, protect yourself from mosquito bites by delaying or avoiding being outdoors during dawn or dusk when mosquitoes are most active although Aedes aegyptii may also feed during all hours of the day. Use repellents that contain the following active ingredients: DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) or picaridin.) DEET may provide up to 10 hours of protection whereas picaridin provides up to 8 hours of protection. In general, a higher percentage of active ingredient in the product results in longer residual activity or repellency. For children, do not use any more than 30% active ingredient. In addition, do not use repellents on infants less than 2 months old. Clothing can be sprayed with either DEET or permethrin (a pyrethroid insecticide). Afterward, always wash clothing separately. Before applying any repellent be sure to read the label carefully.
For stationary ponds there are several products that may be used, such as, “Mosquito Dunks” and/or “Mosquito Bits” that contain the active ingredient, Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. israelensis. The active ingredient is a soil-borne bacterium that is ingested by mosquito larvae, and subsequently kills them. The bacterium only directly kills mosquito larvae and has no effect on fish or other vertebrates. Avoid making area-wide applications of contact insecticides because these types of applications are generally not effective, and the applications may potentially kill many beneficial insects and mites, and pollinators (e.g. bees).
What Does Not Work Against Mosquitoes
The following items will not control mosquitoes: mosquito repellent plants (citronella plants), bug zappers, electronic emitters and light traps/carbon dioxide traps.
Raymond A. Cloyd is the State Extension Leader for Entomology and Professor and Extension Specialist in Horticultural Entomology/Plant Protection at Kansas State University.