The days of summer are fast approaching. While that conjures happy thoughts of fireworks, backyard barbecues and lazy days at the beach, it also signals the return of our neighborhood nemesis, the mosquito.
Last week, Kit Gage and Edmundo Vasquez, residents of the nearby Sligo Park Hills neighborhood in Silver Spring, shared their experiences with a unique community effort to control the mosquito population. The mosquito prevention meeting took place at the Shepherd Park Christian Church and was organized by several Shepherd Park residents, including Matt Chambers and Paula Edwards.
I was not able to attend the meeting, but Matt and Paula were kind enough to share the presentation slides. You can view the entire presentation below:
The two most common mosquito species in our area are the Asian Tiger Mosquito (pictured above) and the Northern House Mosquito (right). Asian Tiger mosquitos are easy to spot because of their distinctive striped body markings. They are fast, aggressive and bite all day long. The Northern House Mosquito feeds in the evening and at night.
The life-cycles of these mosquitoes last for 7-10 days. They require small pockets of standing water to lay their eggs. They prefer to breed near homes and have limited flight ranges of about 300 feet.
Sources of standing water are numerous and may include: containers, wheel barrels, pools or toys, folds in tarps, planter saucers, ponds, birdbaths, gutters, downspouts, rain barrels and more. Bamboo is also know to attract mosquitoes, which lay their eggs in the water which collects inside the stalks.
There are a wide range of commercial poisons that can be effective against mosquitos, but those products have the side effect of harming beneficial insects like bees. People who are concerned about protecting our environment sought another solution.
The key to this program is the widespread installation and use of Biogents GAT traps throughout the neighborhood. In Sligo Park Hills, mosquito populations were reduced by up to 80% without harming insect pollinators, children, pets, or wildlife.
The GAT (Gravid Aedes Trap) is a relatively simple set of plastic buckets, mesh and a sticky card, which together will attract female mosquitoes, and get them stuck on the card rather than get out and lay eggs. It works when people also eliminate standing water outside, and install usually 2 traps per yard comprehensively through a neighborhood. Dr. Dina Fonseca, a noted entomologist who has tested these traps also in University Park, worked with the Sligo Park Hills neighborhood.
Traps attract and kill females looking for wet places to lay their eggs. Research has shown that deployment of traps in a very large proportion of yards in a community can reduce the number of urban Aedes mosquitoes
by over 90%.
How you can help
Mosquito prevention is a goal that is easier to reach when we all pitch in and help. There are several steps you can take to join the effort
- Eliminate sources of standing water on your property.
- For ponds, birdbaths or other water features, consider using Mosquito Dunks which kills the larvae of mosquitoes, midges, blackflies and other nasty critters.
- Purchase and install at least two GAT traps on your property.
- Talk to your neighbors about completing the steps outlined above.
Here is the map of GAT Trap coverage in the Shepherd Park area. If there isn’t a cluster of covered homes near you, consider starting one of your own with your immediate neighbors. Let’s all do what we can to make these bugs unwelcome in our neighborhoods.