What bugs you?

    Something under my back porch steps caught my eye. That one piece of plastic from a backyard toy led to the discovery of other “treasures” half-buried by grass: a golf ball, broken rain gauge, half of a plastic Easter egg and an empty plastic cup. Make that, partially empty cup. A tiny amount of rainwater had trickled inside, offering the perfect breeding spot for mosquitoes. In fact, any of those items, except the golf ball, could potentially provide what mosquitoes need to multiply. It doesn’t take much.

    Ken Holscher, associate professor and extension entomologist for Iowa State University, said he wasn’t precisely sure how much water is needed for a mosquito to complete its life cycle, but said if there is at least 1 inch of water present for 7-10 days, (or as long as it takes to complete their immature development) and sufficient organic material to serve as a larval food supply, that’s all that’s needed to produce a batch of mosquitoes.

   Holscher said mosquito larvae are considered to be “filter feeders” that use their mouthparts to filter and feed on bacteria and microscopic bits of algae, fungi, and other organic detritus in the water.  Cleaner water will typically produce fewer mosquito larvae.  However, the standing water that collects in outdoor areas during the summer will usually have enough organic material to produce at least some mosquitoes.

   The Culex species of mosquitoes that can carry West Nile virus, St. Louis encephalitis and other diseases that cause brain infection, like to breed in containers, such as mine, or old tires.

   It didn’t take long for me to pitch the half-buried treasures. I’ll keep a closer eye on my bird bath and fountain, as well, to make my yard less hospitable to these unwanted summer pests.

 

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