All posts by Mosquito Joe

Preparing for Fall 2019

It’s that time again.  Here at Mosquito Joe, we all get excited about fall.  We don’t know about you, but we start visualizing crisp mornings, wrapping ourselves in scarves, drinking hot apple cider and pumpkin everything.  And then of course, we remember we are in Texas and come back down to earth.

AccuWeather is predicting average high’s in the high 80’s this October, with the potential for some early morning lows in the mid to upper 50’s.  Not quite the maker of crisp fall days. While other Mosquito Joe’s in the north are preparing to close down for the year, here we are starting to add new customers as folks get excited about being outside without melting.

So, what do you need to know about mosquitoes in the fall in Texas?  Most importantly, they don’t care about the temperatures. The fact is, mosquitoes only start hibernating when the temperatures remain under 55 degrees for a full week or we have three deep freezes in a row.  When that happens, mosquitoes won’t be an issue. Until, of course, the temperatures go over that 55-degree mark.

In the five years that we have been in operation we have only had one week where these guidelines have been met.  When it happened, we reached out to our customers and let them know they didn’t need us. Of course, this is Texas, and a week later we were back in the 70’s.

The point here is, while our focus may be on preparing our little monsters for trick and treating, we shouldn’t lose our focus on the real monsters in our yard.  So we want to share some tips and reminders for you on what to do outside to manage that mosquito population.
Falling leaves provide an excellent home for mosquitoes and are a favorite for egg laying.  The ground beneath the leaves is dark and damp and will hold water after a rain. The same can be true for large amounts of pine needles.  Keeping your yard tidy and keeping up with the falling leaves will have a substantial impact on your mosquito population. Rake everything regularly, and then dispose of the piles.

A second sneaky spot to be cautious about are Halloween decorations. From carved pumpkins (which honestly mold incredibly fast so we don’t see those often) and plastic décor, all our decorations can hold water and water is the main source of mosquitoes. We are not suggesting you don’t decorate but be mindful after a rain to check all those over and dump any water you find.

Mosquito Joe manages the water in your yard as well as the mosquitoes, treating both for the adult population and the eggs, larvae and pupae.  A big part of this management involves our customers maintaining a tidy yard and reducing the potential for water accumulation. So if you are looking forward getting outside this month, or if you are planning on having a Halloween party in your backyard, give us a call first!  Mosquitoes are the one blood sucker you don’t want at your Halloween party.

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How Mosquito Repellents Work

How mosquitoes find us:

Before we can understand how mosquito repellants work, we need to understand how mosquitoes find us in the first place.  Unfortunately for us, mosquitoes have evolved 3 ways of seeking out a meal. Each of these methods, used in tandem, enables them to fly in for the bite.

  1. 33 – 99 feet: At this distance mosquitoes rely on their sense of smell, specifically the CO2 plumes we, or other animals, emit.  Experiments have shown that the female mosquito only pays attention to the next cue once the first is present and they are closer to the source.
  2. 15 – 33 feet: The mosquito has homed in on the scent and at this distance is now searching for visual clues to spot you.  They are seeking the source of the CO2, not for a shape or body. 
  3. 1 – 3 feet:  The mosquitoes now rely on thermal sensory input to locate heat and moisture sources.  This prevents them from wasting time on objects such as a rock or vegetation.  

Mosquito repellents are designed to block the mosquito’s sense of smell in stage one.  This is important as it means that someone standing next to you, without repellent, will be attracting mosquitoes.  Of course, once the insect is within 33 feet of you, it now will not distinguish between you and your un-protected friend, meaning you are equally as likely to be bitten as they are.  We often hear people tell us that mosquito repellents don’t work. This is not necessarily true and is more a factor of those around you, as well as how well the repellent has “stuck”.  For example, if you are out in the yard with your spouse, and they just happen to sweat a lot, the repellent may have run off them. Hence, they are the magnet bringing them in to bite you.

What repellents do:

So how do repellents work?  DEET was developed by the military over 50 years ago but it was only more recently that studies have been done to understand exactly what it does.  Mosquitoes smell with their antennae, which are covered in olfactory nerves. The nerves are essentially equipped with odor receptors, that bind to odor molecules and trigger neural activity.  Simply put, DEET binds to these receptors leaving the mosquito confused and unable to smell you. The DEET over-activates the receptors rendering their ability to smell useless. 

According to many studies, the only repellent that comes close to the ability of DEET is lemon eucalyptus oil with the caveat that natural products break down faster and thus must be applied more regularly.  It should not be applied in its pure form and is also not recommended for children under the age of 3. Do not confuse it with the essential oil of lemon eucalyptus either (easy to do). Lemon eucalyptus oil has a different mode of action, simply creating a powerful smell to override that of CO2.  

The market is saturated with alleged mosquito repellents.  Wearables have become popular, although scientific studies show they are not capable of repelling mosquitoes.  Many people prefer to stay away from DEET and make natural repellents. We wrote a blog about DIY repellants recently and you can check out more here. However, they have not been proven to be effective in the fight against mosquito bites.  Folks also like to burn citronella candles and burn tiki torches, but these again will only confuse and delay you being found. 

It’s not enough to wear repellent in your own yard.  The most effective way to avoid or reduce the bites in your own yard is to remove all stagnant water sources from it.  Remember, one small capful of water is enough for 300 eggs. The more water you remove the better you will be. Of course, calling us to manage that water and treat your yard is the best way we know to make your outside fun.  Then you can ditch the repellant and just enjoy.

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6 Backyard DIY games

While our main focus at Mosquito Joe is making your outside fun again, the whole purpose is so that families can get outside and enjoy it!  We thought it would be fun to offer some great DIY options for backyard games, so you and your family can spend some time together enjoying your mosquito free yard.  Let’s start with some true Southern options.

Texas Horseshoes/Washers:

Also known as Redneck Horseshoes, this game started in Texas in the oil boom of the early 1900’s.  While a game of horseshoes involves tossing irons to wrap it around a stake, the Texan option has players throwing a 2.5” circular washer towards a board or to a hole in the ground.   This is a very easy DIY, requiring only two 4.5” sections of PVC driven into the ground, and a collection of washers. For more info just click here.

Cornhole:

This one requires a bit more work in the DIY department, although the resulting board will be with you for years.  Rather than reinventing the wheel, this post from A Wonderful Thought breaks it down perfectly, including detailed instructions and some great design ideas for you finished product.  

Beanbag toss:

Maybe you are not up for the construction of a cornhole board. You can take those beanbags and instead set up a game of beanbag toss.  All that’s required here is a bunch of paper plates, with points written on each. You can start with your closest plate at 10 points, and go all the way up to whatever you chose.  The game simply requires the player to land on a plate and they are awarded the points from that plate.

Backyard Yahtzee:

Great fun for kids, this just requires some cubes of wood and a permanent marker to make the dice. If you want to get a little more fancy, check out this post by Momstastic who burns the dots into herwood (which she gets at Michaels, pre-cut!).  

Bowling:

If you are up for some bowling, a great idea mentioned on several sites is to use some old water bottles, or soda bottles, as pins and throw a tennis ball into the mix instead of a bowling ball.  You can paint the bottles to look more like pins and feel good that you are recycling.

Backyard projector:

Often considered an expensive option, we’ve discovered that it doesn’t have to be.  Small projectors don’t run that much these days and can run off your laptop or phone to play a movie.  For the screen, you can use PVC pipe as a frame and attach projector screen material around it (you can buy the material by the yard as a fabric) or a white sheet if you want to go the most inexpensive route.  Another option is to hang the material as a curtain, weighted inside the bottom seam (we used chain) and with a magnetic strip in the side seam. When the curtains are closed the magnets seal the join, and the weights prevent movement and hey presto – your curtains become the screen.  We don’t have a link for this one as we did this one ourselves!

For a myriad of other ideas, you can check out this great article from DIYncrafts.

Whatever games you pick, please just remember two important things:

  1. Clean up your yard afterwards, and make sure all containers are turned upside down so they can’t collect water and make a home for mosquitoes.
  2. Have fun and enjoy that yard!
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All About Bees

One of the things we work hard at, here at Mosquito Joe, is minimizing our footprint in your yard.  While we recognize the devastating impacts of mosquito borne illnesses (and the allergies some of our customers have to mosquitoes), we also recognize the vital role that other insects play.  The owners of Mosquito Joe of NW Houston are bee keepers and are committed to keeping focus on reducing the unwanted insects while minimizing our impact on other creatures.

The circle of life in any given space requires that birds have insects to feed on and that those insects can freely visit and pollinate flowers, for example.  These “trophic cascades” are vital and while we want to provide our customers with a mosquito free (or flea, tick or fire ant free) yard we also recognize that responsible pest control means minimizing our interference.

To that end, every customer we treat has a personalized plan based on their yard.  Our technicians continually update customer notes to reflect these services so that our treatment is always current to that specific space, and so our other technicians are up to date when they visit.  We never treat flowering plants or fruit trees directly, and instead use garlic at the base of these plants.  The garlic is offensive to mosquitoes and will push them elsewhere where we can kill them without the presence of pollinators.  We also monitor wind and won’t treat if the wind might cause drift, noting the speed and direction at every service.  We have several customers who are bee keepers, and for them we use a different product that is labelled for use around hives. It doesn’t have the staying power of other products, so we reserve it for those guys.  We are proud to say that one of our beekeepers was recently told they have the healthiest hive ever seen – and we’ve been treating her yard for years.  We have a lot of pride about that.

Back to bees though – Honey bees are fascinating insects.  To begin with, one pound of honey requires the nectar of 2 million flowers and 900,000 miles of travel!  Of course, one bee cannot do this and each one will only make 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.  Having said that, they are no slouches and are each capable of flying up to 15 mph and for up to six miles.  Each hive has one queen, who will live up to 5 years. In the spring she is capable of laying 2,500 eggs per day.

Bees communicate with one another through the “waggle dance”.  When a bee locates a good source of nectar, she will return to the hive and direct the other bees to that location through a dance.  This dance shows the location of the flower in relation to the sun and the hive. The hive is composed of the queen, the worker bees (all female) and the drones (the only males).  One last amazing fact:  when the queen dies, every bee in the hive is immediately aware and chaos ensues short term.  The bees immediately set to work hatching a new queen.  The cause of a bee swarm is the loss of a queen.

The future of the Honey Bee is something that has been a cause for concern for some time, particularly since 2006 when beekeepers reported losses of hives from 33 – 90%. Bees were leaving the hive and not returning leaving beekeepers baffled. The name given to this condition is CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) and the impact has declined since that time, but colonies are still weaker than ever. Unexplained colony declines have occurred before, in 1880, 1920, 1960 and 1995 for example. Many of these occurrences have been unexplained, while others seem to point to new parasites that impact the hive. However, scientists point out that there is no one cause to the decline, although they agree that a baseline cause could impact the bee’s immune system, rendering them susceptible to illness and disease.

A reduction of habitat and access to the best pollens also plays a role. As more and more land is destroyed a bee’s access to a diverse plant habitat is reduced. Pesticides are also a threat to the bee population. Specifically, the use of neonicotinoids, routinely used in the US on wheat and corn, soy and cotton crops, has impacted the bee population. A British study reported that “neonics” prevent bees from supplying their hives with enough food.

Neonics are never and will never be used by Mosquito Joe.  We will continue to maintain our focus on individual, boots on the ground services, that minimizes impacts to our bee population. Last year we gave all our customers the gift of a “bee garden” seed packet.  Our hope is that many of our customers planted their seeds and that this year our honey bees will enjoy the addition of thousands of flowers to our area.

If you are interested in helping the bees, there are many organizations out there who are dedicated to raising funds for further research and protection of the Honey Bee.  One great organization is The Honey Bee Conservancy. Check them out here for more information.

 

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