Why Are Mosquitoes Still Around in October?

halloween pumpkinLet’s face it, we all conjure up images of October that involve falling leaves, pumpkin spice and dark evenings with crisp fall air. In Texas, reality usually falls short and we find ourselves sweltering in the heat while trying to dispose of a molded pumpkin that deflated well in advance of the trick-or-treaters.

Mosquitoes appreciate our fall just as much as our summer. In fact, they rarely go away here in the south. Hibernation only occurs once temperatures drop beneath 55 degrees and stay there for at least a week, or we get 3 deep freezes in a row. Mosquito Joe will never treat when those parameters are met. It’s worth adding that we’ve met those parameters only once in 6 years, and it lasted but a week.

raking leavesFall in Texas does involve falling leaves, and those play a role in your mosquitoes. The more leaf litter (and pine needles) on the ground, the darker and damper the soil. There is nothing a mosquito appreciates more than shade and moisture. The leaves create the perfect spot for a female to lay her eggs. One rain shower and a good 300 hatch under the one leaf. The hatched adults immediately breed and the females, once they have bitten and acquired the blood protein required to lay eggs, go off to find another lovely home to lay their eggs. Before you know it, your mosquito population is very high, and enjoying the cooler evenings is no longer fun.

Keeping your yard raked will play a huge role in reducing your mosquitoes. While we totally agree that raking is the worst, maintaining a tidy yard will have a huge impact.

leaf guttersAnother important location to keep your eye on is your gutters. Leaves and pine needles can quickly block them, and the resulting standing water is another location mosquitoes will quickly take advantage of. It’s worth mentioning that even gutters that are covered cause issues. The leaves that sit atop those will turn into sludge with rain. That sludge falls into the gutter and causes blockages. We often have customers who have a huge mosquito population because the gutters are blocked, and they don’t realize it. So long story short, keep your gutters free of leaves. If you have covered gutters, hit them with water from a hose to push out all the debris inside them and keep them clear.

pumpkins and squashesFinally, be aware that some of your fall décor can be causing issues. Check for standing water after rain and be sure to dump any you can. And remember, it won’t be long until Christmas and snow (not).

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What’s the Difference Between Mosquito Service and County Spraying?

We often get customers calling us to let us know that we don’t need to treat their yard because the county sprayed. We also have people ask us why they would need our barrier service if the county sprays the streets. We thought clearing up the differences would be helpful.

County Spraying:

Typically, you will see counties getting out and spraying the streets when West Nile or another disease has been found at mosquito testing sites. Understanding the purpose of street spraying and appreciating mosquito behavior will help explain the differences between what the county does and what we do.

Mosquitoes spend a good majority of their time feeding on plant nectar, typically on the underside of leaves so they can shelter from the sun. They don’t fly well and typically “shrub hop” as they move about. They are very sun phobic, and you will see them out typically at dawn and dusk. They require water to hatch their eggs, so will lay them in stagnant bodies or on damp soil.

The intent in street spraying is to reduce the population’s numbers which is why they typically spray in the early morning or later in the evening. Mosquitoes don’t tend to fly around over asphalt, but the females do take advantage of standing water in ditches to lay eggs. While no one yet knows how to kill the eggs, the best way to reduce the population as a street truck is to treat the streets with a focus on those ditches.

Aerial Spraying:

Aerial spraying is less common in our area, but several years ago it was done when West Nile levels rose beyond what we typically see. Since a plane can cover large areas and is not limited to the streets, it allows the county to make more of an impact on the population. As the mist falls it settles on the leaves and grass, killing mosquitoes it touches along the way. Again, the purpose is to reduce the overall population. Since mosquitoes are typically on the underside of leaves a substantial portion of the population will be unaffected, but the overall population will be reduced.

Mosquito Joe Barrier Service:

The intention of our service is not to reduce the population, but to get our customers to a 95% reduction. We do this in several ways: We remove all the standing water in your yard that we can, and we treat any that we can’t prevent mosquito larvae from hatching into adult mosquitoes. This includes saucers under plant pots, checking your gutters, treating French drains, and more. We use garlic around flowering plants, fruit trees, and vegetable gardens. The garlic pushes mosquitoes elsewhere in the yard, so we can kill them while avoiding the beneficial insects in your yard, such as bees and butterflies. Finally, we treat all the green leaf in your yard by coating both the top and the underside of the leaves. The products we use adhere to the leaf and once dry will not wash off or rub away. As a mosquito hops into your yard and onto a leaf, it will die. Our products continue working for 3 weeks, at which point they will have completely broken down. The majority of our customers are on a three-week cycle to maintain their 95% reduction.

As you can see, Mosquito Joe tailors a mosquito service to your yard and hits all the potential areas where they live, breed, and multiply. Our focus is on making your outside fun again rather than reducing an overall population.

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How to Plant a Fall Vegetable Garden in Houston

August in Houston means high heat, high humidity, and an increased interest in staying inside and staying cool. However, if you are willing to brave the heat now you can set yourself up for some delicious produce come fall.

The good news is that you don’t want to start your plantings in the heat as what is too hot for us is too hot for those tender seeds as well. Instead, you will want to start your seeds off in little pots and take care to keep them consistently moist. Your best bet is to place them in the morning sun, but make sure they have afternoon shade – or move them out of the sun come noon. If you need to speed up the process and are getting a later start, soak your seeds overnight in water before planting.  This will soften the hull and give you a jump start on growth.

Another trick to fool seeds into sprouting at the wrong time of year is to start them in an ice cube. A good example is spinach, which typically sprouts later in the season. You can get them to sprout sooner by freezing the seed in an ice cube and then planting the ice cube (who knew!).

Once the seeds start to sprout maintain the watering and sun schedule until they reach 6” tall.
Remember: you want moist soil, but you don’t want to overwater and cause root rot. Once they hit 6” they are ready to be planted. Ideally, you will want to do so in a raised bed since it is easier to water and maintain moistness than flat ground.

Be sure to weed and prep the soil with a good compost before planting. If you don’t have raised beds work your soil into raised ridges and plant in those.

 

Some plants that will do well planted in August include cabbage, okra (if you speed up the sprouting time by soaking the seeds in water), and so long as you maintain good moisture, cherry tomatoes. You are best waiting until the end of the month for the latter.

Once we move into September the options increase. Having prepped your seeds for growth in mid-Augustyou can start planting out snap beans, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, swiss chard, kale, English peas, Irish potatoes, collards, kale, and summer squash.

In October, you can plant beets, garlic and leaf lettuce. In November, consider adding radish and turnip to your garden.

For a comprehensive list of what to plant when, and a guide on how to build your garden before planting, visit TAMU’s website here.  You can see a comprehensive list of Texas varieties of veggies that will do well here and have you winning the battle of vegetables vs. sun.  Come fall your family will enjoy a feast of fresh vegetables!  If you want to enjoy your gardening work without being bitten call Mosquito Joe.  Remember, we will never treat your veggie garden unless the situation warrants (and we speak with you first) and then we will only use an all-natural garlic option. Our services are tailored to your yard so we can make your outside fun again while minimizing our impact to pollinators and beneficial insects.

 

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How to Keep Water Activities From Breeding Mosquitoes

It’s hard to believe that we are halfway through 2020 although some might say it’s the longest year on record. As we approach the hottest month of the year the yard is filling with toys to keep our kids cool. Slip n’ slides and water balloon fun can help make for an exciting afternoon outside while keeping the family cool, but they are also a potential attractant for mosquitoes. As always, we want to help you keep that mosquito population down and are here to point out some ways to do just that.

Water games are popular in Texas, and with good reason. In the mid-afternoon sun, you and your kids can overheat quickly. It’s what you do after the games are finished that will have a big impact on the number of mosquitoes in your yard. After all, mosquitoes need water to lay their eggs. The more water the merrier as far as they are concerned, but they don’t need much. Just one teaspoon of water provides enough surface area for 300 eggs!  So, the key to managing the population is in how you put the toys away.

Slip n’ slides and kiddie pools are often emptied of water and left to dry. If they are put away when they are still wet, pockets of water can attract mosquitoes.  Compound that with how we store them – often in a dark place – and we just made the mosquitoes a most excellent home. Ideally you want to hang these toys up to drip dry and then fold them and store them in a sealed location.

Buckets and water balloon toys often have the same fate. We hide them away in a tub or in a garage, but we don’t remove all the water before we do. Since these places are cool and shaded, mosquitoes will welcome the opportunity to lay their eggs in these locations and before you know it you have quite the population boom.

A simple and fun afternoon can be spent running around with a sprinkler in the yard. Where things can often go wrong is when other toys, inevitably in the yard as well, are hit with the sprinkler and fill up with water. We recently had a customer who was having continual issues under his car port. We made multiple visits to try and determine the issue with no luck. Finally, one day we arrived early, to find an outdoor play kitchen out in the yard. We realized that it was full of mosquito larvae (on the face of it looked very clean, but inside the walls of the kitchen was stagnant water). Turns out, the customer was putting the toy in his garage before we came to treat and then returning it outside for the grandkids. We estimated about 1.5 gallons of water in when we emptied it.

The key takeaway here is to just to be conscious of mosquitoes and their behavior when you clean up the yard after a day of play. Make sure everything is dry and that your storage location is completely sealed. Damp, shady places with pockets of water will breed millions of mosquitoes. Check slides and playhouses for water and get rid of as much as you can by rotating it or moving it into a sunny area.

We hope you create some great memories with your kids and none of them involve bug bites and if they do, give us a call and we will be happy to make your outside a fun place to be.

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Things to Do at Home

For the introverts amongst us, staying at home is not much of a change in routine.  But for the extrovert, thumb twiddling could become the next sport.  We thought we would gather together some ideas to keep you busy during this strange time.

If you are looking for some “big” ideas, consider learning a new language or taking up an art form. From painting to simple doodling, you can pass a few happy hours this way: watercolor, oil paint, drawing, sculpting and so on.   There are a lot of tutorials available on YouTube for every art medium you can think of. If you want something that requires less skill, check out some of the new paint by number options out there. You can paint some pretty impressive and large pieces of art these days. You can also consider scrapbooking. Do you have a pile of old photos you’ve always been meaning to sort out? Now is a great time to sit down and create some albums for your family to treasure. Create a vision board and get your kids to do the same.

Baking is a great hobby that has the added benefit of filling up your kitchen with yummy treats. The only down-side here is the possible lack of ingredients in your local stores.  Check out Instagram for streaming bread-making classes, or, again, head to YouTube for some free lessons. There are also a multitude of companies that offer classes online if you want to take that path.

If you love to organize, now is a great time to set about with a plan to sort out your home.  Marie Kondo and her book “The Magic Art of Tidying Up” approaches tidying from a new perspective and you can drill down and get your whole house revamped in a few weeks.  It’s also a great time for all those honey-do’s that there is never any time for.

Gardening is another great hobby that you can really enjoy this time of year. Maybe you’ve always intended on laying a new bed or revamping some old ones. Getting outside can really keep your spirits up when you are asked to stay home and what better way to use your time than to make some changes and upgrade your curb appeal.

If gardening isn’t for you, work on the inside of your home and consider painting a new color on the wall or moving some furniture around.

If you have children, you know that starting a new hobby is not as easy as it sounds. But consider making it a family affair and learn something new together. Have an afternoon of art, create a fairy garden outside or sort out their toys with them. Pulling out some cards or jigsaw’s or games is a great way to spend time together. Think about putting a tent up in the yard and going on a “camping trip” or build a fort in the game room.

Speaking of the kids, consider getting everyone involved in some family exercise like yoga or aerobics. An hour of expending some energy will help everyone’s sanity. Opt for a picnic in the garden instead of dinner at the table if the weather allows. The key with kids is having some kind of routine to make each day have purpose. Honestly, routine is key with us adults too. Consider writing down all the tasks you wish you had time for, and all the things you wish you had time to learn.  Then create a calendar to get those things accomplished. Just don’t forget to intersperse some fun in there!

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