Posts tagged mosquitoes

Rain: Too much of a good thing

The following is by Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith:

     He was correct.  A climatologist said July was going to be wetter and colder than normal.  Did you imagine we’d be wearing jackets and sweatshirts on mid-summer mornings?  A couple of my houseplants living on the deck for the summer got relocated under the eaves.  They were experiencing a little too much of a good (rain water) thing.  It has been nice not having to drag hoses or fill the water wagon as much this year.  The soaker hose has been pretty much dormant, too. 

    It does bother me letting all this precious water run off, though.  Rain barrels have become a popular efficient way to retain that wonderful commodity that Mother Nature provides. Rain barrels don’t need to be plugged in or powered up.  They’re good for the environment and save money. 

    Rain water is preferably to municipal water for gardens because it provides a beneficial pH balance, thus creating less of a need for fertilizer. 

     Rain barrels situated at the base of a gutter or downspout, are typically modified recycled 55 gallon food grade drums, and include a filter, spigot and with an overflow pipe usually directed  on to a flower or vegetable bed.  Commercial rain barrels are available with costs varying.   Rain chains, water-funneling devices, can be used in place of down spouts for an esthetic effect.  Maybe you would want a decorative rain barrel situated on either side of your patio door. 

     Rain barrels may provide a good source of water should we have a water restriction order.  While the primary use is plant associated, rain water can be used to wash a car, scrub patio furniture or even flush a toilet. 

     Rain barrels do require minimal maintenance.  Leaves and other debris have to be removed from the filter and the gutter supplying the water.  Also, users need to guard against mosquito breeding and algae.  All in all helping  the environment far outweighs a bit of inconvenience.

    And, speaking of mosquitoes, just a reminder with all of the moisture we’re experiencing, the most common floodwater mosquito will be laying eggs in any source of stagnant or muddy water.  Remember to regularly empty and clean the kids’ wading pools, the pet’s water dishes and the bird bath.  Tall weeds and grasses harbor mosquitoes during the day.  Reduce the incidence of the problem and reduce the population of the annoying and possible disease carrying critters.

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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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