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Protect yourself from West Nile Virus by preventing mosquito bites

In any location there are hundreds of different types of mosquitoes with different characteristics. Some are more likely than others to transmit diseases like the West Nile Virus. There are some simple steps that can be taken to help reduce disease transmission.


Do limit mosquito breeding locations

All mosquitoes breed in water. There is tremendous variation in the nature of that water from rainwater in a field to permanent wetlands to water in a variety of containers. Any small pool of fresh water can foster the growth of mosquitoes, but different mosquitoes use different types of water. By preventing breeding sites, mosquito populations and disease transmission can be dramatically reduced.

Do get rid of temporary standing water

There may standing water as a result of recent heavy rains or poor drainage. These pools foster the development of what are referred to as “Flood Water” mosquitoes. If the pool lasts for a short period of time, the danger is minimal.

Do reduce breeding around permanent standing water

There are times when standing water does not dry up, and the pool lasts for weeks or months, or longer. These have the potential to be a serious source of problem mosquitoes. This is particularly true of material in the pool begins to decay and causes the water to get quite dirty. This is the favorite breeding location of many disease carrying mosquitoes.

If nothing can be done to remove the water from the area, then other means are necessary such as “mosquito dunks” and “toss-its.” These contain various agents that are quite specific to mosquitoes and will do an excellent job of reducing the breeding. It should be noted that these types of “pools” are not limited to the ground. Many people have rain gutters that clog with debris, forming these kinds of pools of water. If you have rain gutters, they should be checked monthly for standing water.

Do keep artificial containers clean

Any object that can hold water can become a mosquito breeding site. Five gallon Buckets have become popular to hold gardening materials, and a variety of things in a yard. These can also hold water and breed mosquitoes. But it does not have to be something that large. A soda can will collect enough rainwater to foster the breeding of mosquitoes. Since the biology of these mosquitoes is so intimately connected to our presence that they feed almost exclusively on humans.

Do dry up natural containers

There are small places in a yard where water can collect that we might never suspect. Many times, as trees mature, small holes develop in the crotch of a couple branches or in a place where a dead branch has fallen off. These “tree holes” can collect water and become a breeding site of mosquitoes who specialize in that kind of water.


Do not wait until mosquitoes become adults

Adult mosquitoes are much harder to deal with than larval forms. If the larval forms are attacked by reducing water sources, there will be far fewer adults to deal with.

Do not be outside around dusk and dawn

The mosquitoes that transmit West Nile Virus normally take blood from birds and prefer to feed around dusk when the birds come in to roost and dawn right before they become active. If you limit your time outside around dusk and dawn it will help to avoid potentially disease carrying mosquitos.

Do not let general household maintenance slide

Small holes in window screens or loose weather stripping around doors leave enough of a gap for mosquitoes to get into your house. The two most common vectors of West Nile Virus are the Northern House Mosquito and the Southern House Mosquito. Their names are due to their behavior of getting into our houses, waiting until night and then taking blood meals while we sleep.

Do not wear clothes that expose your skin

Female mosquitoes cue on skin temperature and carbon dioxide released from the skin. Reducing the exposed skin surface reduces those cues.

Do not go out without wearing repellents

There are a variety of effective repellents available. Some need to be re-applied more than others, but repellents will reduce your chance of being bitten.

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Anyone can help to reduce mosquito populations by simply being aware of the places mosquitoes breed. Getting rid of mosquitos will greatly decrease the chance you and your family have for getting West Nile, and dealing with pesky mosquito populations in general.

More expert advice about West Nile

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Richard DuhrkopfAssociate Professor of Biology

Dr. Richard Duhrkopf, associate professor of biology at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, is an extensive researcher with more than 30 years’ experience studying mosquitoes. Dr. Duhrkopf currently serves as regional director for the national ...

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