The Buzz On Pest Control
When you begin gardening as a hobby, you start to feel pretty humble in this great big world full of mystery and magic. You are spending time outside tending to your plants and enjoying their wonderous beauty when Buzz—a swarm of mosquitoes descends upon you! You swat, you grab bug spray, even get angry as they extract your blood. But do you ever think twice about those little vampires? You may observe there are large and small mosquitoes but do you ever wonder what species they are?
Our local mosquito control department has identified a total of 36 different species here. Common wetlands plants often act as host nurseries to breed. These plants, such as cattails, are considered vector species and are targeted for elimination by the county. The department collects 5,000-8,000 pupae every year trying to identify the bad ones so they can battle them with the correct pesticide. When you see their trucks driving up and down the street, they are spraying our ditches with Bacilus thuringiensis israelensis, a natural bacteria that kills larvae.
Nearly as quickly as our roadside ditches fill with water, they become inhabited by astonishing levels of diverse life forms. Upon closer inspection, you may notice these wonderful little native fish called rainwater killifish or mosquito fish that are stocked by the county. Like their name suggests, these little guys eat millions of mosquito larvae, but sadly when the ditch dries out, they may die if they don’t make it into to a local pond or waterway. As a fun little conservation project, you can help rescue these little critters when the ditches begin drying up. Grab a bucket, a net and scoop out as many as you can catch and release them into a bigger water source.
Although some of Mosquito Control’s practices are questionable, such as the use of aerial spraying of naled, (a highly toxic organophosphate insecticide banned in Europe) used to combat the Zika virus, I feel confident knowing that our tax money for mosquito control goes to a department doing a great job to protect us. There hasn’t been a reported case of any major mosquito spread infection for over fifteen years in our community.
At home, you can take measures to prevent mosquitos from breeding in your yard. Empty containers that hold standing water, get mosquito dunks (BTI) and try placing Spanish moss in your rain barrels as this will kill larvae due to its antimicrobial and antiseptic qualities. As it turns out, we all contribute to breeding mosquitoes by leaving rain-filled containers in our yards. Clogged gutters are a big factor too. Eliminate standing water—the perfect place for place for mosquitos to breed. If you have bromeliads, drip a few drops of natural soap in them which will kill mosquito larvae.
Here are some natural recipes to deter pests around your home. The best bug spray that costs barely anything is a combination of lemongrass, peppermint, eucalyptus, and citronella essential oil—mix 20-30 drops of each in 4 oz. bottle, fill the bottle with olive oil, shake well and rub on. Fire ant and roach killer: combine 50% peroxide & 50% water in a spray bottle, add 2 squirts of natural bio soap (7th generation works best to emulsify oils), 40 drops of eucalyptus and peppermint oils, 15 drops of citronella oil and shake well. This spray kills pests on contact and is a great deterrent to keep the ants out of your house. It also makes a wonderful general use non-toxic cleaner that kills airborne bacteria as well. Another really nice combination that I often use is lemon, eucalyptus, lemongrass and clove to refresh your couch and chairs. This kills dust mites and bed bugs.
All these ingredients can be found at your local health food store for a very minimal cost. I use the “Now” essential oil products for cleaning. There are always natural non-toxic solutions for home and health. For more home & garden solutions, follow Ebb & Flow Farm on Facebook. More to come on gardening as we approach planting time soon. And please check those rain barrels, gutters and dump containers!