Mosquito Management

As a DOTH and owner of Innovative Pest Management, Inc., I wanted to briefly chime in on the current discussion of mosquito control options, product selection and their impact on beneficial insects, equipment selection and safety considerations. My intent is to provide some clarity regarding the impact of natural and synthetic pyrethroid-based insecticides for the control of mosquitoes.

Why Bother?

One of the greatest concerns people have regarding mosquitoes is disease transmission. Mosquitoes transmit a number of diseases, such as malaria, dengue, yellow fever, and various encephalitic diseases most notably West Nile Virus (WNV). The good news is that except for a major outbreak of WNV in the early part of this century, these diseases rarely and in some cases never occur in this geographic area.

The most important reason to use mosquito management services is to comfortably use your backyard without being attacked by these blood thirsty insects.

Inspection

The most important thing to do when managing mosquitoes is to inspect the property for breeding sites and sensitive areas and items to consider when making pesticide applications.

Unless you live near large bodies of water, such as marshes, stream beds, and bay areas, most mosquitoes are breeding in or near your property in artificial containers, such as cans, tire swings, gutters, bird baths and any other container that can hold water for 5-7 days. In addition storm drains, tire ruts, roadside drains and other temporary bodies of water can serve as breeding sites.

If you are using a pest management service they should identify breeding sites on your property and either remove them or make remedial recommendations. Furthermore if a pesticide application is going to be made they should identify edible plant material, children’s toys and playground equipment, fish ponds and bird baths and make provision to avoid contaminating these items with insecticide regardless of type.

Non-Chemical Strategies

  • Eliminate breeding sites.

  • Avoid outdoor activities at dawn and more importantly dusk.

  • Change lighting: replace outdoor bulbs to yellow; use sodium vapor instead of mercury vapor bulbs; locate lighting away from activity area; and reduce lighting indoors that overlooks outdoor activity areas.

Products

There are many insect repellents available to consumers and most work to some degree – the major difference is longevity. DEET by far is the most effective mosquito repellent and lasts the longest. It is not necessary to use a formulation any stronger than 33% and DEET should not be applied to children less than 2 years old.

The fundamental principle of mosquito control is to coat the surfaces of their resting sites, cool and shaded areas out of the path of wind and by doing so, repel mosquitoes from landing in these protected areas and remaining on your property. If a mosquito is bold enough to land on an insecticide treated surface, the residual typically kills the mosquito. In addition, standing water such as basement-landing drains can be treated with larvacides to reduce breeding. Most larvacides hold up for 14-28 days and are an integral component of an effective mosquito-management program.

Currently there are two types of products available for residual mosquito applications, synthetic pyrethroids and natural/organic plant based formulations. Both types of products work primarily as repellents although they will kill on contact at the time of application. Some synthetics are formulated using a microencapsulation process so the active ingredient are released over time and after drying resistant to rain and weathering (often 30 days or more). Natural/organic products are botanical compounds that naturally occur in plants as part of their natural defense against insects. Some of the most common plant based materials include rosemary oil, geraniol, peppermint oil, and garlic. The natural/organic products are not microencapsulated thus they are subject to rapid degradation form rain and other environmental factors and typically need to be applied every two weeks to remain effective.

Synthetic products can also be applied as an aerosol or Ultra-Low Volume (ULV) application for quick knockdown of adults present at the time of application. This is a transient application and provides no residual effect. The droplet sizes are extremely small and readily they drift from the point of application with the wind to off target sites and items.

Application Techniques

On smaller properties and near bodies of water the best application technique involves the use of a compressed air sprayer that allows the product to be applied at 25-40 psi and in a targeted manner. This provides for a larger droplet size preventing drift to your neighbor and non-target items such as toys, vegetable gardens, ponds, etc. The larger droplet size means that you get more product where you need it - the mosquito resting sites thus the product lasts longer and applications are less frequent.

Use of hydraulic and powered backpack blowers/sprayer/ULV equipment should be reserved for larger properties of more than an acre. Powered backpack sprayers can generate particles in the ULV range (approximately 20 microns) and distribute them at speeds over 100 mph spreading pesticide particles to neighboring properties as well as many non-target items around your home. The benefit of using powered backpack blowers/sprayers allows applicators to service more homes per day and is subsequently a great revenue driver for companies who employ this technology. However, the inability to control drift to neighboring properties, renders this technique inappropriate for most applications within the District of Columbia.

Non-Target Insects

Every effort should be made to avoid applying either of these type products to plants where non-target insects, such as bees, ladybugs, preying mantids, etc., are present because even natural/organic products will kill these insects by direct application. Thus, avoiding direct application to flowering plants and appropriate equipment election can reduce the risk to beneficial insects.

Innovative Pest Management, Inc. was founded by 9-year Hill resident Joshua Kramer, his father Richard Kramer, Ph. D. following his retirement as a U.S. Army entomologist, and partners Luke Krikstan and Shari Silverman.  Nationally recognized as a leader in his field, Dr. Kramer is a Board Certified Entomologist (BCE) in Urban Entomology with over 35 years experience. He has held the prestigious position of Director of Research, Education, and Technical Services for the National Pest Management Association, consulted internationally for the U.S. State Department, writes a monthly column in Pest Control Technology, and authored the most recent edition of the Technician's Handbook—used by thousands of field technicians throughout the country. He is a past president of the Maryland Pest Control Association and currently resides on the Maryland Governor’s Pesticide Advisory Committee.

Dr. Kramer's vision of recognizing unmet needs within our industry and his leadership in setting the standard for professional responsibility were instrumental in his decision to form Innovative Pest Management. Striving for excellence in customer care, we operate as one of the fastest growing full-service residential and commercial pest management organizations in the DC metropolitan area. With a staff of 25 of the industry’s most talented individuals, we are large enough to quickly respond to your most significant problems and small enough to deliver the exceptional service you deserve. Our entomologist-trained, state-certified technicians are experts in pest identification, habits, prevention and control. We have proudly provided pest erradication, build-out/renovation rodent-proof consulting, rodent exclusion services, termite treatments, real estate transaction inspections/reports, and mosquito suppression services for over 1,000 clients of Capitol Hill. We also provide service to Smithsonian Institution, National Airport, The DC Convention Center, American University, Social Security Administration, NIH and many more prominent institutions.

Kramer was originally drawn to the Hill by mentor, former professor and long-term Hill resident Drury Bagwell, the former Vice-President of Student Affairs at the University of Maryland.  While Dru and Joshua enjoyed dinner at Two Quail in 1993, Joshua was instantly attracted to the architectual charm and the droves of family activities that fills the neighborhood. Joshua lives with his wife Julia and two children and were recently featured on the Renovator's House Tour following an extensive addition to their home.


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