Nip garden pests before they nip you

July is a great month for garden tours and showing off your garden. Unfortunately, it is also a great time of year for garden pests as well. When working outside or entertaining outdoors, one quickly discovers that not all insect pests in the garden want to eat your plants some want to eat you. Blood-thirsty mosquitoes love a moving target and they are now on the attack.

The recent heavy rains received in our area have caused flooding; any standing water which remains can create habitats for mosquitoes. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water, and adults can emerge in 7 10 days. Examine your yard for areas with standing water, such as old containers or upturned garbage can lids, and dump them. Mosquitoes breed in these types of places, so by removing the water, you’ll get a head start on controlling these pests.

Also be sure to replace water in bird baths, fountains, and wading pools weekly to kill mosquito larvae. Even very small amounts of water can create a mosquito breeding ground. Scout your yard and empty any inconspicuous items, such as plant trays, garden art, etc. that may hold water. Unfortunately, this won’t take care of all mosquitoes, as some species lay their eggs directly on the ground in low-lying areas, which will hatch after a heavy rainfall.

With gardening chores and the holiday weekend coming up, what else can folks do to stay off a mosquito’s menu? Well, there’s no one magic potent to make mosquitoes go away. Everyone’s body chemistry is different and some people are more apt than others to be bitten.

Are you one of the lucky people who seem to attract these unwanted guests? You’re not alone! Mosquitoes are attracted to Carbon Dioxide exhaled, as well as the heat and moisture your body gives off. Certain chemicals in sweat help mosquitoes to zero in on you.

As mosquitoes are attracted to perfumes, use unscented antiperspirant, lotions, and hair products, as scented products can be a mosquito’s invitation to dinner! To throw off mosquito radar, use a repellent to mask body signals. Studies show repellents containing DEET work best. Don’t apply repellant to skin under clothing, but spray directly on clothing instead. Avoid spraying repellant directly on young children apply sparingly by hand instead.

Avoid dark colored clothing, which attracts mosquitoes. Wear long sleeves and pants. Clothing made of tightly knit materials may help minimize bites. Replace outdoor lights with yellow “bug” lights to attract fewer mosquitoes.

Malathion may be used to kill adult mosquitoes. Spraying bushes and other vegetation may reduce mosquitoes for a few days, but does not eliminate those which carry West Nile Virus.

If you’ve tried these tips and mosquitoes still eat you up the best alternate may be to stay inside after duskwhen mosquitoes are most active. And don’t forget that horses, pets and livestock need protection too!

Did you know? The ability of Citronella candles to supposedly keep mosquitoes at bay by drawing them away has been touted for over 100 years. Citronella candles are not much more effective than plain candles, which also give off heat, CO2, and moisture.

For further information on garden insect pests or other gardening questions, contact Yvonne McCormick at yvonne@iastate.edu