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Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in a PCT e-newsletter titled “Targeting Mosquitoes,” which was sponsored by MGK.

To control mosquitoes around a customer’s home, a pest management professional can spray the lawn and foliage with an insecticide, Insect Growth Regulator (IGR), or repellent, or offer a misting program to dispense insecticide into the air. But if the customer doesn’t do his/her part in eliminating conducive conditions on the property, mosquitoes are likely to continue to develop.

This is one of the reasons it is so important for the pest management professional to not only inspect the entire property prior to recommending or providing treatment, but also to educate the customer on conducive conditions that contribute to mosquito development. This should include both any conducive conditions that are discovered during the inspection as well as conditions that are commonly found in backyards and in other residential settings.

“The number one conducive condition is standing or stagnant water,” said Professional Pest Management Alliance Executive Director and National Pest Management Association Vice President of Public Affairs Cindy Mannes. “Mosquitoes lay their eggs in water where the larvae develop and need only about ½ inch of water to breed.”

“I think a lot of people have no idea where mosquitoes breed,” said Texas A&M Professor and AgriLife Extension Service Urban Entomologist Mike Merchant. So having someone who understands — and can explain — the mosquito life cycle and can explain where and how they will breed provides important information for homeowners.

EDUCATING HOMEOWNERS. There are a variety of ways to educate your residential customers on mosquito control and conducive conditions, but the first step is for pest control company managers and technical directors to educate their workforce, Mannes said. This not only includes the PMPs who are out in the field, but also employees who answer the phones, so they can be the first step in providing factual information to consumers.

Other ways of educating customers (and your staff) include:

  • Use your company’s website and other digital means to provide factual information on mosquitoes, why control is important, where mosquitoes breed and what they can and should do for prevention.
  • Regularly review professional sources such as the PCT and NPMA websites and publications to stay up to date on mosquito control, the diseases mosquitoes can transmit and other relevant information.
  • Create or download fact sheets on mosquitoes and answers to common customer questions.
  • If a customer has more questions than you have answers, you also can refer them to the NPMA consumer website, pestworld.org, for additional information.
  • Refer specific questions on diseases, such as Zika virus, to medical professionals, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state health departments and other health experts. “Remember, we are not experts in diseases, but we are experts in mosquito control,” Mannes said.

CONDUCIVE CONDITIONS. Given these methods of education, the most important facts on which customers should be educated include areas of mosquito breeding, other conducive conditions and steps they can take for prevention. Merchant notes that a mosquito harborage inspection and recommendation service could be provided as either a value-add or an add-on service.

Following are five steps to share with customers to eliminate conducive conditions:

  • Eliminate areas of standing water around the home, including those that are more obvious, such as birdbaths, baby pools, flowerpots and unchanged pet water bowls, as well as those that are often overlooked, such as gutters, fence posts with caps, wheelbarrows, buckets, tarps on boats and grill covers.
  • Fill in any ditches or swampy areas the create puddling water, or keep them drained. If there are any stumps on the property, these should be removed or filled with mortar.
  • To keep outdoor recycling containers from accumulating water, drill drainage holes on the bottom.
  • Inspect and clean gutters annually, or more frequently if there are trees on the property that tend to drop their leaves on the roof or directly into the drain, causing them to clog.
  • Although mosquitoes do not reproduce in tall grass or shrubs, these areas can provide harborage for mosquitoes, especially in shaded areas. Keep grass cut short, shrubs and trees trimmed, and keep low brush eliminated or well maintained.
An Anopheles stephensi mosquito obtains a blood meal from a human host through its pointed proboscis.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/William Collins

PREVENTING BITES. While all these steps can help reduce or eliminate conducive conditions, it is impossible to completely eliminate mosquitoes. Thus, it is also important for consumers to understand ways they can protect themselves from mosquitoes. Following are steps that Mannes recommends for consumer protection:

  • Keep mosquitoes out of the home by ensuring all windows and doors are screened and in good condition — repairing even the smallest tear or hole.
  • If clients are planning to be outdoors for extended periods, suggest they wear long pants and sleeves and use an insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon-eucalyptus.
  • It is especially important to wear effective insect repellents and protective clothing if traveling outside the United States. Mosquito-borne diseases that may be rare in the U.S. are common in many other countries.

Most species of mosquitoes are most active between dusk and dawn, so taking precautions and minimizing activity then is most critical. “However,” Mannes said, “it is important to note that the species of mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus are daytime biters, so you need to take the same precautions during the day.”