Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Mosquitos - West Nile Virus

                        Get Rid of Mosquitos 

West Nile virus has been in the news here in my county. Birds infected with the virus have been found in Palm Springs to Murrieta.  Mosquito control is a number one priority here in southern California. With homes foreclosed upon or folks not being able to afford to maintain their swimming pools, mosquitos are on the rise.

Mosquito aren’t as thick as what you would find in wooded areas in the Midwest or Atlantic Sea Board but, we do have our problems mostly due to standing water. There is still West Nile and much to worry about.

Even though we have drought and the lowest bug summers found anywhere in America, mosquitos are here and thriving. The best way to help your  fellow citizens is to stop mosquitos from breeding and living in your yard and killing them once they inhabit your yard.


                          Stop Mosquito Breeding

Not all mosquitoes need stagnant water to breed. Most mosquitoes live around where they were born. The easiest way to keep them out of your yard is to make it as unattractive for them to breed there. After it rains, or after you use sprinklers or hose, be sure to empty any container containing water. You should be thorough. Look under tables, behind buildings, at the base of faucets, etc. Mosquitoes like water that sits for 4 or 5 days at a time. I just learned that  they can breed in as little as a tablespoon of water! That’s as little as a water bottle cap full.

Inside old tires, planters, crevices in children’s toys, and gutters are the most forgotten about places to dumb still water. Rain gutters full of debris are prime mosquito territory. Who ever thinks about cleaning rain gutters in southern California, right? So clean your gutters or use gutter guards.

Think about the places that you keep water on purpose. Are you breeding mosquitos or do you at least see any flying around? Keep your pool and hot tub chlorinated and they’ll be mosquito free.

Your bird bath needs to have water changed regularly, you can also place some sort of agitator in your bird bath to keep the mosquitoes at bay. Mosquitos don’t usually like movement to breed.

If you have ponds think about stocking it with fish. Koi fish will deal with the mosquitoes; otherwise, you will need to add something that will kill them as like chlorine or particular bacteria that kills mosquito larvae in water. If you have a rain barrels or manure tea barrels, make sure it is fitted with a secure mesh opening that prevents any mosquitos from wanting to breed in it.

The only responsible thing to do is to completely remove standing water that you don’t use and you’ll be ok. Remember to pass the word about West Nile Virus and mosquito abatement to your neighbors as well. Your county should have some really good information online.  

How to control mosquitoes in your yard

Animals are the best offense to getting rid of mosquitos. Besides standing or stagnant water and using chemicals and bacteria to rid mosquitoes, bats and birds are numero uno!

Bats eat mosquitoes. I know that bats are gross to look at but, bats will actually seek out mosquitoes to eat. Having more bats equals less mosquitoes.

If  bats aren’t your thing, then attract birds to your property. how about birds? Purple Martines, Swallows, Warblers eat mosquitoes, but not an overly large amount of them. There are however other birds such as chickadees that will eat flying insects as well. So make your yard bird friendly and be sure to toss your bread crumbs and bird feed out in your driveway or yard to attract the birds.  This works every time.

Snakes and lizards eat bugs too. Many people hate snakes and shudder to think of snakes being in their garden, but snakes and lizards aren’t destructive to your garden. Of course, you would want to get rid of any venomous snake like a rattler but common garden and gopher snakes won’t eat your plants, dig holes, comp on plant roots, tunnel, etc. Rodents do all those nasty things, and snakes eat rodents and lizards eat bugs.  So, like bats, snakes and lizards are creatures with a bad reputation that actually help your garden. I’ve never seen a frog here in southern California but, I’ve seen plenty of lizards. It seems the hotter the temps.. the higher the lizard population is… as well as the mosquito population if you don’t dump that stagnant water.

Moving on, there is actually a simple mechanical control you can use to rid mosquitos from yur property. The ‘mosquito magnet’ does work. Mosquitoes are attracted to CO2. There are devices that use propane and an attractant to generate CO2 which then pull the mosquitoes into a trap. It’s an amazing wonder and works! The ‘mosquito magnet is effective for small areas, it can be expensive  buy and to keep running but, if you’re having a mosquito infestation or have health problems... mosquito magnets are the way to go.


*Bug zappers don’t always work for mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are not attracted to light no matter the color.  Those things will kill lots of other bugs though.  Most of the bugs killed by bug zappers aren’t even harmful to humans. They’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The best insecticide to use is a fogger. Foggers come in many different sizes but, they basically all work the same by omitting a thick cloud of insecticide into a radius. I’ve seen foggers used in an area half the size of a football field in about 5 minutes. The fog leaves dead insects everywhere. These will kill indiscriminately.  They’re great for when you’re planning a party, wedding, sporting event or public arena.

Overall.. . I’m all for saving and killing wild life by using organic products.  I don’t want anyone die from West Nile virus but, I don’t want to kill the eco system as well. When you absolutely have to kill every mother biting mosquito in the room, accept no substitutes.
Foggers kill so well and often use more eco-friendly chemicals than 20 years ago. You can actually use your outdoor space almost immediately after using a fogger and repels mosquitos for hours I not days.

*There are a variety of both wild and cultivated plants that repel mosquitoes as well as plant based mosquito repellents. If you live in an area prone to mosquitos be sure to wear a mosquito repellent.

Plants That Repel Mosquitoes

Bergamot, Catnip, Cedars, Citronella, Clove, Eucalyptus, Garlic, Lavender, Marigolds, Nodding Onion, Peppermint, Rosemary, Sagebrush, Snowbrush, Sweet Fern and Tea Tree.

Monday, November 19, 2012

2012 First & Last Freeze Dates

 Frost Calendar
This vegetable garden First & Last Freeze Date Calendar below will help you plan ahead. It will help you succeed at having a bountiful garden or extending your garden's life according to your planting zone.
I try and follow the First & Last Freeze Date Calendar to help me know when my seeds should be started indoors, when they should be started or transplant your seeds and seedlings outdoors.
*Following the chart will give you a rought  idea as to when to expect to harvest your seeds. Each vegetable has a variety of types, each one with a slightly different growing season, and length. In general, the information listed on your seed packets, at Burpee.com, Farmers Almanac or favorite gardening source can also be very helpful in as to when to start planting seeds indoors or outdoors.

Remember.. seeds needs a particular degree of heat or coldness to either germinate and thrive after germination. The chart below is most helpful if you're needing to schedule a garden events, planting seeds outdoors, transplanting vegetables, harvesting determining if you should cover your last crop of tomatos or that sort of thing.
For example, once the onions are harvested in the late summer, a quick growing cool weather crop such as lettuce, spinach, or beets could easily be grown where the onions once were before the first frost comes in. Frost can completely wipe out a vegetable garden. This allows an additional set of vegetables to be grown from the same garden plot or helps you know when to cover your crops so they won't get burnt from frost.
So.. my advice is to pay attention to this First & Last Freeze Date Calendar then watch your local news for current weather updates.