When The Skies Clear, Prepare To Fight An Old Enemy Once Again | Texas Public Radio

When The Skies Clear, Prepare To Fight An Old Enemy Once Again

May 9, 2019

Recent rains and warmer weather are expected to make the local mosquito population explode. Local health officials offered advice on how to fight them off.

The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service reported the first line of defense is to rid your property of any standing water -- that’s where mosquitoes lay their eggs. Don’t forget to unclog rain gutters too.

Molly Keck is an entomologist -- or bug expert -- for Bexar County. She said residents must move quickly after the rains because mosquitoes feed on blood, lay eggs, and die -- all in just two weeks time.

She explained that female mosquitoes do the biting. One may think they pump blood out of people, but it’s actually the other way around.

“They don’t actually do any sucking," she explained. "They let our blood pump into them, so a kind of cool trick you can do is squeeze your skin real tight when a mosquito is feeding on you, and it will actually blow up if it can't pull its mouth parts out.”

She said the protein in our blood helps them produce eggs. They lay eggs in water. The eggs become larvae. The larvae sprout wings and take off to find more blood.

Another line of defense against "skeeters" are called dunks. Drop the pellets or tablets in the standing water residents want to have around, like bird baths or water bowls for pets. The dunks contain bacteria that will kill the insects but won’t harm people or animals.

“They’re very host specific," she said. "They only kill fly larvae, and mosquitoes are a type of fly, so you can put them in your coy pond. Your prized racehorse trough -- anything. You can drink that water if you really want to.”

Credit Steve Short / TPR

She said dunks are available online and at home improvement stores but tend to sell out quickly during rainy weather.

The city of New Braunfels even offered dunks for free at city hall.

Some people turn to natural approaches to protect themselves against mosquitoes, like garlic and citronella. Keck said the top recommendation from the EPA is to use products containing DEET.

The less mosquitoes, the better. Metro Health reported that as of May 10, it had not received any local reports of mosquito-borne illnesses like West Nile or Zika.

Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at Brian@TPR.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian.