“Do not use a cannon to kill a mosquito.”
While it’s true that mosquito-borne diseases are among the world’s leading causes of illness and death today, the dangers posed by the insects must be weighed against the dangers posed by insect control.
According to Dr. Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we must understand the threat level of mosquito-borne illness in the local area and use the least harmful pest control methods necessary to protect against it.
“Don’t panic! Treat the relatively low threat of zika rationally. We don’t spray deadly pesticides where we don’t need to, otherwise the chemicals are more harmful than the mosquitoes.”
–Dr. Tom Frieden, CDC director
Fortunately, the Chicago area is relatively free of the serious mosquito-borne illnesses that The World Health Organization estimates afflict more than 300 million people each year.Locally, prevention is a much smarter approach to mosquito control than resorting to toxic pesticides after-the-fact to kill adult mosquitoes.
Here are 3 simple steps to safely lower the threat of health risks caused by mosquitoes:
- Dump and Drain:
• Routinely empty any containers on your property that are holding water;
• Remove debris from gutters;
• Trim back thick shrubbery and overgrown grass where adult mosquitoes rest on your property;
• Fix leaky outdoor faucets.
- Protect Yourself:
• Repair damaged or broken doors and screens;
• Wear light-colored clothes with long sleeves and long pants;
• If possible, avoid the outdoors at dawn, dusk, twilight hours, and night when mosquitoes are most active;
• Close garage doors at night.
- Use Non-Toxic, Natural Deterrents:
• Mist your property with sprays containing non-toxic, natural biting-bug deterrents such as essential cedar and peppermint oils: Natural Insect Deterrent;
• Incorporate plants into your landscape, such as citronella grass and geraniums, that serve as natural mosquito repellents;
• When possible, use natural insect repellents made from permethrin and picaridin instead of those containing the more-toxic DEET. The EPA has a helpful guide to what type and how much insect repellent you need: Select the Right Bug Spray
While traditional pest treatments can be effective, they can also be quite dangerous. Many pesticides on the market today include harsh, environmentally unfriendly chemicals that can put your family and pets at risk.
The EPA maintains a list of insecticide warnings to report issues with some of the most dangerous pesticides. While most everyone will need an efficient pest control treatment at some point, the safety of traditional insecticides has become a major concern for many.
Integrated Pest Management
IPM is an ecologically based strategy that relies heavily on natural mortality factors and seeks out control tactics that are compatible with or disrupt these factors as little as possible. IPM uses pesticides, but only after systematic monitoring of pest populations indicates a need. Ideally, an IPM program considers all available control actions, including no action, and evaluates the interaction among various control practices, cultural practices, weather, and habitat structure.
Learn more about the EPA/CDC Integrated Pest Management approach to Mosquito Control here: Integrated Pest Management