Dump that standing water

Mosquitoes transmit lots of nasty diseases.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Zika, West Nile and chikungunya viruses, eastern equine encephalitis, dengue and malaria are all mosquito-borne illnesses. COVID-19 is not. Mosquitoes also carry canine heartworm, of great concern to dog owners.

The state Division of Fish and Wildlife Mosquito Control Section urges people to take protective measures to avoid being bitten. That includes using EPA-registered insect repellents, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants and using window and door screens.

Better yet, don’t give the bugs a place to stay. While the mosquito control section is responsible for reducing mosquito populations, they can’t police backyards.

“We can’t force people to do it,” said section administrator William Meredith. “It has to be people voluntarily doing the right thing.”

Urban and suburban properties are full of container habitats, which fill with rain water and become breeding spots for certain mosquito species. Eggs deposited in the water spend anywhere between five days and a month developing there.

By regularly dumping or draining standing water on your property, you can significantly affect the mosquito population in your neighborhood.

“It helps them and their neighbors. It prevents mosquito production or arrests it. It’s important that they do this particularly for the control of a really problematic species, the Asian tiger mosquito,” Meredith said.

Backyard menace

Asian tiger mosquitoes are one of the more recently-introduced species in Delaware and the U.S. in general. Their distinct black-and-white stripes are visible to the naked eye. They’re especially concerning because, unlike other species, they populate urban and suburban areas and are aggressive daytime biters. Most mosquitos are active around dawn and dusk.

The good news is that they rarely fly farther than 300 feet from their breeding spot. If you spot an Asian tiger, check your yard for stagnant water and drain or dump it.

When container habitats are left to stagnate, adult mosquitoes populate the area. Of course, the mosquito control section can always use a fogger to distribute adulticide in these areas. The chemicals they use are EPA-registered and as safe as possible for both humans and the environment, but Meredith would still prefer to use them as little as possible.

“We’re here for the eruptions of mosquitoes coming out of the thousands of acres of salt marshes we have,” he said. “We can’t handle the innumerable breeding places around people’s homes, businesses and industrial areas. We’re not backyard janitors.”