Michigan’s warmer spring weather brings with it blooming flowers, lush green lawns, pristine beaches — and armies of biting mosquitoes.
According to Ann Sodja, associate professor in Wayne State’s Department of Biological Sciences, mosquito season begins when temperatures and humidity are favorable – between 70-90 degrees and 70-90 percent humidity. As long as these conditions persist, the mosquito population will thrive.
We often think of mosquitoes as nocturnal, favoring the cover of darkness to launch their attacks, but Sodja points out that their biting preference may range from nighttime, dawn, dusk or even daytime. It depends on the mosquito species.
The lifespan of a mosquito varies depending on gender, predators and man-made insecticides. Females, who only feed on blood, may live for several weeks or up to two months, while males will only survive about two or three weeks. Both sexes use plant sugars as an energy source.
What are the best methods to eradicate mosquitoes on our properties?
Sodja does not support the use of chemicals. “In general, insecticides do not discriminate between the insects, thus killing the beneficial along with the undesirable ones,” Sodja says. “Eradicating mosquitoes would disturb the food chain because mosquitoes are a food source for several aquatic, as well as terrestrial animals.”
Sodja says using preventive and protective measures instead will accomplish positive changes. These measures include:
- Ridding gutters, decorative vases and bird baths of stagnant water. Using a waterfall-like pump that constantly stirs the water is an alternative.
- Avoid using rubber tires as swings.
- Use candles or torches containing repellents, such as citronella, in outside garden and patio areas.
- When camping, use bed nets along with other protective measures such as repellents and/or repellent-treated clothing.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks.
- Appreciate bats, nocturnal creatures that feed on mosquitoes.
Why all the concern over a few mosquito bites?
Sodja says they are vectors for a number of viral or non-viral pathogenic agents causing diseases in humans or animals. “The disease spectrum is broad, including West Nile Virus, St. Louis-type encephalitis, equine encephalitis, malaria, yellow fever and dengue/dengue hemorrahgic fevers.”