A critter less than a half inch long has made the headlines for two years now. The tiny mosquito mobilized governmental agencies throughout the state to do battle against this carrier of West Nile Virus. Although aerial spraying of pyrethrin in Sacramento County has successfully controlled a portion of the mosquito population, it is a solution of last resort. It's still up to homeowners - and backyard gardeners in particular - to help fight the bite.
The UC Integrated Pest Management Program offers these tips to help you control mosquitoes in your own yard:
Ponds: Stock ponds with mosquito fish, or use Bti dunks (Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis). Remove excess vegetation.
Swimming pools: Keep water off cover. Maintain water quality and run the pump daily.
Plastic pools: Drain water when not in use, or cover so mosquitoes cannot lay eggs.
Tree holes: Fill hole with sand or mortar.
Containers (including discarded flower pots, wheelbarrows, tarps and saucers under potted plants): Empty water and store in an inverted position. Dispose or cover so mosquitoes cannot lay eggs.
Bird baths: Change water at least once a week.
Standing water: Eliminate by draining. Fill in low areas. Do not overwater garden.
Watering troughs: Stock with mosquito fish, or change water weekly.
Cooler or air conditioner drain pipes: Prevent water from standing.
Street gutter or catch basins: Keep litter and garden debris out of gutter.
Cesspool or septic tanks: Seal and cover opening so mosquitoes can't lay eggs.
Roof gutters: Clean once a year to remove debris.
Lawns or fields: Avoid over irrigation. Don't water every day.
And a little common sense for you and your family to battle the buzz:
Avoid spending time outside when mosquitoes are most active, especially at dawn and dusk.
When outdoors, wear long pants, long sleeved shirts and other protective clothing.
Apply insect repellent according to label instructions.
Make sure that doors and windows have tight fitting screens. Repair or replace screens that have tears or holes.
Remember that mosquito-bitten birds may carry the West Nile virus. If you find a dead bird, do not pick it up with your bare hands. For more information, Sacramento County residents can call their District office at 916-685-1022. San Joaquin County residents can call the Mosquito and Vector District at 800-300-4675.. Or, check out more tips on the Internet, at http://www.westnile.ca.gov.