Protecting yourself from mosquitos

Mosquitoes are a pesky nuisance Floridians are all too familiar with. They are not only a biting nuisance but they carry many viruses. Earlier this month, three cases of the West Nile Virus were confirmed in Leon County, which prompted the Health Department to issue a mosquito-borne illness alert for Leon County for the next 60 days. With Leon County being our next-door neighbor and mosquitoes knowing no boundaries, it's important we take the necessary precautions 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 - 20% 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 mosquitofish (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.

The Jefferson County Extension Office has a limited supply of mosquito dunks that are available to the public free of charge. For more information or to obtain mosquito dunks, visit the Jefferson County Extension Office at 2729 W. Washington Hwy. Monticello, FL 32344.