Texas Living

Avoiding the Bite

By Leslie F. Halleck 7.22.15

We’ve all noticed it, discussed it, and celebrated it—Texas has gotten some much-needed rain this year. But with all that magnificent water comes an annoying and possibly deadly houseguest. Mosquitoes are thriving in the unseasonably wet spring most of the state has experienced. Increased standing water, damp conditions, and warmer temperatures are leading to many more breeding grounds than previous seasons.

An infestation can make enjoying the outdoors almost impossible. Mosquito bites are not only itchy and painful, but they can also carry with them serious diseases, including the West Nile and chikungunya viruses. Since multiple species of illness-spreading mosquitoes populate Texas, prevention is key. It’s the frontline approach to avoiding both the nuisance and possible health consequences of mosquitoes.

Here are some natural solutions to combat these pesky insects:

Eliminate standing water. The most important action you can take to prevent mosquitoes in your landscape is to eradicate standing water. It takes only the tiniest puddle of water to breed mosquito larvae. Be sure to regularly change the water in birdbaths and your pet’s water bowl if it’s kept outdoors. Keep your gutters clear of leaves and debris. And cover rain barrels with a mosquito-proof screen, usually made of very fine 1/16-inch mesh, to help prevent adult mosquitoes from laying their eggs in the barrel.

Mosquito Bits and Dunks. The most effective preventative treatment available for mosquitoes is Bacillius thuringiensis (Bt), also known as Mosquito Bits or Mosquito Dunks. Bt is a naturally occurring soil-borne bacterium that kills mosquito larvae before they can mature into adult mosquitoes. It is a highly effective natural treatment and is nontoxic to aquatic life, birds, pets, and people. Sprinkle Mosquito Bits around your foundation shrubs, landscape drains, gutters, or anywhere else you may have standing water. Mosquito Dunks can be floated in pools, ponds, or streams.

Botanical sprays. If adult mosquitoes make their way into your yard, there are a number of natural botanical sprays that will effectively repel them for several weeks at a time. Some are garlic-based, while others have a pleasant herbal fragrance. They can be sprayed into your lawn and landscape shrubs. Pheromone traps are another effective and natural solution for killing adult mosquitoes.

Insect repellants. To keep the biting at bay, make sure to wear clothing that covers your arms and legs when heading outside. Long layers may be uncomfortable in the sweltering Texas heat, but mosquitoes can’t puncture most clothes. If you can’t stand to don anything heavier than shorts and a T-shirt, apply an insect repellant. Common sprays often contain DEET; but natural alternatives, such as sprays and wristbands containing essential oils, have been proven to be just as effective. As a last resort, stay inside at peak times for mosquito breeding, such as dusk and dawn.

For another layer of protection from these buzzing, biting insects, visit the Texas Farm Bureau Insurance blog to learn how to plant a garden that can naturally repel mosquitoes.

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