The road to finding the right solution to a customer’s pest issue – whether it is ants, flies, rodents or mosquitoes - starts with pest management 101 – proper pest identification. A misidentification can lead to delivering a treatment that fails to deliver the goods for the customer and results in costly callbacks for you.
When it comes to reducing mosquito populations in residential settings pest professionals need to address two issues right out of the gate:
1. Identifying where mosquito breeding locations and habitats are within a property
2. Eliminate the conducive conditions – mainly the water that all species of mosquitoes crave - that attract them.
Once pest professionals do this, they will be on their way to delivering an effective solution for customers.
The mosquito species most commonly found in urban settings as they prefer to be around humans (the feeling is not reciprocal however) is the Aedes mosquito. Aedes mosquitoes are not willing flyers and thus will make their nesting sites close to their human targets.
The Culex mosquito can also be found in urban settings but they need larger bodies of water – catch basins, drainage ditches, retention ponds – that are usually located directly outside the customer’s back door.
“The source of the infestation with Aedes mosquitoes is always in close proximity to where the activity is being reported,” says Chris Swain, technical services manager for MGK. “If you don’t properly identify the species it can lead to control issues and callbacks.”
Some common locations where these disease-transmitting insects prefer to breed include items that are often found right outside a customer’s back door:
• Plant containers and the plates underneath
• Pet water bowls
• Clogged gutters or downspouts
• Landscape water features
• Cracks and crevices in cement
• Children’s toys and play areas (i.e. sandboxes)
• Patio furniture
• Bird baths
• Rain barrels
“Virtually any container that can retain standing water is a possible breeding site and that is why it is important for PMPs to identify and inspect these areas before a treatment is made,” says Swain. “Mosquito breeding locations are not always along a tree line or in a shrub bed, they can be in the flower pot sitting on an outdoor dining table.”
Tommy Powell, eastern technical field representative for MGK, reminds PMPs to look under decks for potential breeding locations since these areas can retain moisture and attract mosquitoes. The Aedes specie has also been found in underground collections of water such as open or unsealed septic tanks, storm drains, wells, and water meters.
The Aedes mosquito needs very little water - a bottle cap’s worth is all it takes – to establish a breeding sites and their eggs have the ability to survive dry conditions for long periods of time, allowing them to be easily spread to new locations.
What makes Aedes mosquitoes a big issue with customers, beyond the potential health threat they present and their close proximity to their living and recreation spaces, is the fact they are all-day biters, annoying humans from dawn to dusk.
“Aedes mosquitoes can be just as active at noon as they are at dusk and that raises the frustration factor for homeowners,” adds Swain.
Treating for mosquitoes is not about total elimination but about reduction of the population since an adjoining property that you don’t have access to can be the source of the problem. Sharing this information with customers before a treatment is made will help establish realistic expectations.
“Whether or not you receive a callback depends largely on the expectations you set with the customer,” says Swain. “Pointing out the neighbor’s partially filled swimming pool or overgrown landscape, as well as educating them on steps they can take to reduce mosquito-attracting items in their yard help set the proper baseline.”
The First Three Steps to Effective Mosquito Management
Mosquitoes are a challenging pest to treat for. The approach to managing these transmitters of multiple diseases is counter to how pest management professionals typically go after other pests where total elimination is the goal not just population reduction.
When designing a mosquito management program pest professionals need to remember this simple mantra – if you get rid of the habitat, you get rid of the mosquito.
The first three steps to effective mosquito management include:
1. Eliminate water sources that attract mosquitoes. If you can’t remove the water source consider treating it with an insect growth regulator.
2. Remove conducive conditions that provide mosquitoes with breeding locations within a customer’s property. If the conducive condition is not on your customer’s property consider treating mosquito landing areas (trees, shrubs, etc.) – make the property mosquito-repellent.
3. Communicate with the customer and set proper expectations. Mosquitoes breeding areas can be located next door or across the street, and present a threat to your customer. Point out and document these conditions to customers following your initial inspection of the property.