Protecting yourself from mosquitos

Mosquitoes are a pesky nuisance Floridians are all too familiar with, especially this time of year. They are not only a blood-sucking nuisance but they carry many diseases. Mosquito-borne diseases of public health concern in Florida include St. Louis encephalitis, eastern equine encephalitis, West Nile virus encephalitis, and dengue. While it can be difficult to completely eliminate mosquito populations, there are precautions we can take to protect ourselves and our families.

Protective Clothing and Repellents
The most effective means to protect yourself from mosquitoes is to wear protective clothing (shoes, socks, long pants and long sleeves) and to use a repellent on exposed portions of the body when outdoors. Insect repellents that contain 5 to 20 percent DEET as the active ingredient are recommended. The repellent should be applied to skin or onto clothing, but not under clothing. It is important to read the label before applying mosquito repellent and to remember that there are different recommendations for frequency of application for different products.

Drain Standing Water
One way to keep mosquito populations down is to prevent the landscape from being a breeding ground for them. Many species of mosquitoes require standing water to lay their eggs; therefore, eliminating standing water can help keep populations low.
Mosquitoes can develop in a variety of water-holding containers such as flowerpots, birdbaths, pet dishes, tree holes and bamboo trunks, and many others. It is important to:
• Drain water from garbage cans, gutters, buckets, coolers or any other containers where water is collected.
• Discard any old tires, bottles, broken appliances or items not being used that could potentially hold water
Change water in birdbath’s or pet dishes once or twice a week.
Stocking ornamental ponds with mosquito fish (Gambusia species) can also help keep mosquito populations down. The small fish will feed on the mosquito larvae and add movement to the water. They are most effective in small ponds with no other fish present.
For other areas with standing water that cannot be drained, such as rain barrels or ornamental ponds, products containing Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) are effective in controlling mosquito larvae. Products containing Bti come in the form of granules or “dunks”, which look like miniature donuts. The mosquito dunks are not harmful to fish, waterfowl, pets or humans when used according to label directions.
UF/IFAS Extension will be distributing mosquito granules and dunks at the Build-A-Bucket Event at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Division of Emergency Management (169 Industrial Park, Monticello, Fla.) on Saturday, June 29, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. For more information, contact the UF/IFAS Jefferson County Extension Office at (850) 342-0187.