submitted by Blair Dancy [Email address: bdancy #AT# - replace #AT# with @ ]

What are you doing about mosquitoes in your yard? Ever think you could do more, without
resorting to explosives and cyanide? You’d be right!

Many of our neighborhoods have the dreaded “Asian tiger”
mosquito, breeding happily in small pools of stagnant water. I could bore with you nasty details about the
Asian tiger—how it’s only been in the U.S. since 1985, but has spread like
wildfire east of the Rockies; how it’s so aggressive that it displaces our
lazier, indigenous mosquitoes; how it’s spreading dengue fever in Latin

But instead, I’ll tell you how to keep your mosquito
population to a minimum. The first thing
to know is the life cycle of a mosquito: egg, larvae, pupae, and the dreaded adult.

This month, we’ll focus on the eggs. (No eggs, no adults.)

To beat a blood sucker, you’ve got to think like a blood
sucker. So, if you were an expecting
mosquito momma, where would you like to lay eggs? Let the question sink in before you
answer. Think, think, think.

That’s right! You
need water. The Asian tiger does not lay
them on the water, but right near it, where they’ll get wet during the next
rain or sprinkler rotation. (Other species
lay them in rafts, on the water, but we’re focused on the Asian tiger.)

What’s better than water? Fermenting leaves, like the ones you’ve left in your bushes since the
day you bought your house in the 1980s. The best egg-laying sites for the Asian tiger are like your dorm room in
college, with a combination of shade, stagnant water in a small, dark area,
mosquito larvae already living in the water, and rotting leaves. (Where exactly did you go to school anyway?)

To get rid of these marvelous egg-laying sites, first
identify them: Bird baths, pet dishes, overflow dishes for potted plants—be
sure to look under your deck as well for the errant can or Frisbee. The worst culprits include leaf-glutted
gutters (which may empty directly into rain barrels—ah, do those skeeters have
it good!) and tree holes that collect water when it rains.

The obvious problems are easy to solve, though sometimes
time consuming with all the leaf removal (use fresh mulch for your beds, if you
can). The harder ones include tree
holes. You can distinguish tree holes
that hold squirrels and birds from ones that hold water (and are therefore
potential breeding sites) by water stains running down the tree. You might
consider filling your tree hole with sand and capping it with cement, but CHECK
WITH YOUR ARBORIST FIRST to be sure you don’t hurt the tree.

In addition to getting rid of breeding sites, the Mosquito
Swallow ( imitates breeding sites. Adults in your yard will leave their eggs in
the trap rather than returning to your neighbor’s tree hole or gutter.

Remember that as the days grow shorter, the egg casings get
thicker. By the time winter hits, the
eggs are ready for the cold while the adults die off. If you clean up your leaves in the winter but
before spring hits, you may get rid of a lot of those eggs well before mosquito
season comes.

There, that’s it for this month. Did you feel your mosquito IQ shoot up? (Or is that feeling actually the pang of
guilt for being such a friend to mosquitoes all these years?) Next issue, we’ll deal with the wigglers and
tumblers, a.k.a. larvae and pupae.