The Zika virus has officially arrived in The Low Country. It's not time to panic, but we all want to keep our families safe. Good lawn care is an important part of keeping your family safe from Zika and other mosquito-born diseases.
Zika Mosquitoes and Other Mosquitoes Breed Where Water Gathers
Mosquitoes need water to breed. Female mosquitoes lay their eggs on the surface of standing water or in places that later become flooded. These standing water pools can include toy trucks left outside, buckets, planters, tires, and water standing in drainage systems or left behind after too much watering (yet another reason not to water too much). Even bowls of water left out for the family dog can be a mosquito breeding ground.
In warm conditions (like in The Low Country), bugs hatch and start biting 7 to 10 days after eggs are laid. This is a crucial piece of information. If you find standing water on your property, dump it out. You have at least 7 days between when eggs are laid and when mosquito larvae can emerge from the water's surface and begin biting. This may not provide 100% protection from these bugs, but it will prevent your yard from being a part of the problem.
Water Features Can Still Be a Safe and Beautiful Addition to Your Landscape
Standing water does not have to a place for mosquitoes to breed. Fish ponds and fountains can still be a beautiful part of your landscape, without becoming a host for mosquitoes. Brenda Cassels from Exotic Aquatic Ponds tells us that fish species like Gambusia are born mosquito larvae eaters. These fish are often called "mosquitofish" because their diet often consists of a large number of mosquito larvae (relative to their body size). These fish are so good at keeping down mosquito populations that several counties in California actually distribute them to pond owners at no charge.
Reach out to Exotic Aquatic Ponds if you're looking for where to get mosquitofish in the Savannah area. Exotic Aquatic also stocks something called a "mosquito dunk" to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in ponds and foutains. Mosquito dunks look kind of like doughnuts and you can put them into any standing water to prevent mosquitos from breeding. They are totally safe for pets and humans too. People often put them into bowls used for pet water to keep mosquitoes from breeding there.
Use a Good Insect Repellant on Your Kids
Even after you've gotten rid of the mosquito breeding grounds in your landscape, it doesn't mean that there aren't still germy mosquitoes around. It's a good idea to put a good insect repellant on your kids and yourself before spending time outside. According to an article published on the UGA website (http://apps.caes.uga.edu/gafaces/?public=viewStory&pk_id=5854), DEET based insect repellants are the best way to keep bugs off your kids. Homeophathic repellants like those made from lemon or eucalyptus can also be affective, but may irritate skin.
Stay Safe and Enjoy Your Yard
It seems like every year brings another mosquito-borne panic (see West Nile Virus, Chikungunya, St. Louis Encephalitis, etc. etc.). TideWater takes your health seriously and wants you to be safe. But we also want you to enjoy your yard. So, play it safe. Make sure your landscape is not a place that breeds mosquitoes, keep your family safe with good insect repellant, and enjoy your yard.