Protect Yourself and Your Family From Mosquito Bites

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Flooding from Hurricane Florence continues plaguing our state with highway and road closures, property damage and pests. Homeowners in southeastern NC, especially those living in low-lying areas, may be faced with additional insect problems if their property has been flooded.

We can expect to confront more severe mosquito issues about 7 to 10 days following flooding conditions. The Asian tiger mosquito is the major species encountered since they take advantage of opportunities to breed in standing and stagnating water that has been trapped in poorly drained, low-lying areas; ditches that are clogged with silt and debris; clogged rain gutters; and carelessly discarded containers. They are easily identified by their distinctive black and white striped legs.

Mosquitoes are important pests because their biting activity often interferes with outdoor activities, like yard clean up, and can transmit a disease to people and domestic animals. They can carry viruses like La Crosse encephalitis, West Nile Image of a mosquitovirus and eastern equine encephalitis. Most mosquitoes are active during twilight hours and at night; however, around the home, the mosquitoes that breed in standing water are active during the day. Mosquitoes need water to complete their life cycle and they can breed in almost any source of water. Pesticides are only a short-term solution to nuisance mosquito problems. Be sure to protect yourself during debris cleanup from mosquito bites by a few simple “R&R” tactics: Remove, Repel, Remind.

Remove: Take steps to control mosquitoes indoors and outdoors.

  • Use screens on windows and doors. Repair holes in screens to keep mosquitoes outdoors.
  • Use air conditioning, if available.
  • Stop mosquitoes from laying eggs in or near water.
    • A mosquito control program should be started by removing standing water. Clean out clogged drainage ditches. Empty all water-filled containers, such as flower pots and buckets, old tires, toys, pools, birdbaths.

Repel: Use insect repellent.

Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents with one of the active ingredients below. When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

  • DEET
  • Picaridin (known as KBR 3023 and icaridin outside the US)
  • IR3535
  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE)
  • Para-menthane-diol (PMD)
  • 2-undecanone

Tips for babies and children:

  • Always follow instructions when applying insect repellent to children.
  • Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old.
    • Instead, dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs.
    • Cover strollers and baby carriers with mosquito netting.
  • Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD) on children under 3 years old.
  • Do not apply insect repellent to a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, cuts, or irritated skin.
    • Adults: Spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to a child’s face.

Tips for everyone:

  • Always follow the product label instructions.
  • Reapply insect repellent as directed.
    • Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.
    • If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second.

Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.

Treat clothing and gear:

  • Use permethrin to treat clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents) or buy permethrin-treated clothing and gear.
    • Permethrin is an insecticide that kills or repels mosquitoes.
    • Permethrin-treated clothing provides protection after multiple washings.
    • Read product information to find out how long the protection will last.
  • Do not use permethrin products directly on skin.

Remind: Comprehensive mosquito control is a community effort. Remind neighbors that everyone needs to participate in the cleanup of their own property and common areas to remove mosquito breeding sites.

There are many products available if you decide to treat your property to kill adult mosquitoes. Please keep in mind that chemical doesn’t always land where you direct your spray particularly with windy conditions. Most of these same chemicals are highly toxic to bees and have restrictions on applying them to flowering plants or else restrict their use to when pollinators are not actively visiting flowers. If your neighbor has bee hives in his/her backyard, you should talk to them first and make sure chemical doesn’t drift into their backyard and potentially harm the bees. Read more about mosquito control.

Minda Daughtry is Horticulture Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.