Keep water features safe and healthy
Water offers a soothing and refreshing element to the garden. Water features can be fountains, ponds, waterfalls and other features that can be designed in any form. These make excellent focal points for the garden or even handsome little centerpieces for an outdoor patio, room or balcony. Water attracts more than human interest, though. Mosquitos can turn water features into health dangers. Mosquito bites are not only uncomfortable and the high whine of these insects capable of keeping you awake all night, but the mosquito is a vector for serious diseases like West Nile virus and encephalitis. Heart worm is also spread to your pets by mosquitoes.
But don’t worry. Not only are there ways to keep these pests out of your water feature, but you can do it safely – safe for you, children, pets and even wildlife. First, it helps to understand how mosquitoes live.
Mosquitoes have an interesting life cycle. They lay eggs in glued rafts that float on the surface of calm, standing water. The eggs hatch out and spend the first part of their lives in liquid. Much of the time they lie at the bottom or float suspended in water coming to the surface regularly to breathe. People notice them as odd little creatures that look like tiny worms, tufted at either end, swimming with a distinctive back-to-front flipping action as they rise and fall in the water. This is the larval stage of the mosquito. In merely days, the larvae grow large enough to rise to the surface, usually at night, and transform into the flying adult we know all too well. This flying form is when females will feed on warm blood and mate so they can create more eggs.
There are ways to keep mosquitoes from laying eggs.
- Cover exposed water. This is especially useful when you are saving rain water to recycle.
- Keep water in fountains, ponds and other water features circulating. Mosquitoes need stagnant water for laying eggs. Empty water from water features you are not using.
- Add fish to ponds. They will happily dine on mosquito eggs and larvae before the insects mature into flying adults.
- Chose products carefully for mosquito and algae control. You can add chemical water conditioners or bleach, but these may be toxic to pets and wildlife. A better choice is to use mosquito bits or chunks sold by most garden centers, box stores and pond supply retailers. These compressed cakes biologically control the pests with bacteria that selectively attack only mosquito larvae. They are not made with chemical insecticides so they are not toxic to other forms of life. Bleach is also sometimes used to discourage algae growth. A safer choice would be the all-natural barley straw usually sold with other pond supplies. Algae is also more of a problem in sun than in shade.
- Check regularly around your property after rain and every few days when sprinkler systems are on to empty tubs, pots, wheelbarrows and any other container or receptacle that could allow water to collect. Regularly change water in containers you want filled like bird baths.
With a little care you can keep mosquitoes from breeding on your property. It doesn’t take a lot of money, work or time. Follow these guidelines and you can not only help control mosquitoes, but you can help reduce the spread of the diseases these insects carry.
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