Why Mosquitoes and Mild Winters Don't Mix

Learn how to handle an early mosquito hatch.

By Emily Main

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No need to shore up your supply of toxic mosquito repellents, though: The chemicals used to kill mosquitoes can be just as threatening as the diseases they carry. To keep your home mosquito free during what could be a bite-riddled summer, take these steps:

• Call your neighbors. Neighborhood mosquito-abatement programs, handled by your municipal government, involve spraying iffy pesticides throughout your neighborhood from trucks or airplanes, whether you know it or not. Most of the time, they use synthetic pyrethroids, hormone-disrupting pesticides that can waft into your home, and according to Jay Feldman, executive director of the National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides, those neighborhood sprays aren't effective because they don’t come into direct contact with mosquitoes, which is the exposure it takes for them to die. To find out what mosquito-spraying policies are in your city, just search online for your city or county and add "mosquito abatement district." Then contact your municipal government to petition for safer methods, like using beneficial bacteria in lakes and ponds that kill mosquito larvae.

• Clean up your backyard. Cover, clean, or eliminate anything that collects standing water (the ideal breeding ground for mosquito larvae), for instance, empty trash cans and lids, kiddie pools, rain barrels, and birdbaths. And learn how to make songbirds and bats fall in love with your backyard. They're the natural predators for mosquitoes.

• Ditch DEET and pesticide-treated clothing. Unless you're hitting the tropics or some other area known for voracious skeeters, you don't need to resort to toxic, nerve-damaging DEET or clothing treated with those same hormone-disrupting pyrethroids. For ideas, check out our roundup of plant-based mosquito repellents without DEET.

Photo: (cc) dr_relling/Flickr

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