The warm, wet Florida summers are well known for the increase in mosquitoes they bring. Mosquitoes are not only a biting nuisance; they can carry many dangerous diseases. Controlling mosquitoes is a constant battle and there are a number of steps you can take to keep your landscape from becoming a breeding paradise.
Eliminating standing water around your home is the best way to keep mosquito populations low. Check containers regularly and empty out any water that may accumulate in them. Clear debris from your rain gutters and eliminate standing water on flat roofs, air conditioning units, and other structures.
While eliminating all standing water would be ideal, you may have attractive water features in your landscape you'd like to keep. Be sure to change the water in your birdbaths every two or three days, and refresh your pet's outdoor water bowl daily. If you have a rain barrel, be sure to either cover your full rain barrel or put a screen on top to prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs in the water.
In Water Gardens and Ponds
If you have a small container water garden, just add water to the container until it flows over the top and flushes out the mosquito larvae. Installing a pump in a larger water garden will circulate the water and make it less attractive to mosquitoes.
Stocking ornamental ponds with gambusia fish can help keep down mosquito populations as well. The fish will feed on mosquito larvae while adding movement to the water. Small and unremarkable in appearance, gambusia are voracious feeders—a female can eat up to 200 mosquito larvae in one day. They are best used in small ponds with no other fish present. With a freshwater fishing license, you can trap them yourself, or check to see if your local mosquito control district office provides them.
For other water areas that can't be drained, look for products containing Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti). Bti is very effective in controlling larval mosquitoes and is not harmful to fish, waterfowl, pets, or humans when used according to label directions. It comes in the form of granules or "dunks," which look like miniature doughnuts. Be sure to purchase a produce with the strain israelensis, Bti, and not just BT.
There are some species of mosquitoes breed specifically in bromeliads. You can flush these water-holding plants regularly to keep their water clean and free of mosquito larvae. Or consider sprinkling Bti granules in the bromeliad cups.
Protecting Yourself and Others
In areas with mosquito-borne illnesses, which include Florida, the recommendation is that you use an EPA-approved insect repellant containing DEET and follow the label directions. The repellency of natural products has not been determined by researchers at UF/IFAS. Current research underway is looking at the efficacy of natural products.
Mosquitoes can be quite the summer nuisance and while a little maintenance in your landscape can help limit breeding areas, it takes a community to reduce mosquito populations. Encourage friends and neighbors to reduce mosquito habitats in their own yards as well. To control mosquito populations, it truly takes a village!