All posts by Mosquito Joe

Preparing for the 2020 mosquito season

Get your mosquito problem under control this year!

Happy New Year!  2020 is one of those years that always seemed so far off, and yet here we are, in the distant future.  2020 is the year of the rat and a leap year. The summer Olympics will be held from July 24th to August 9th in Tokyo.  The world population is expected to be 7,758,156,000.  Amazingly enough, of that population 6.1 billion will own a smart phone. This means that more people will own smartphones than have electricity.

As everyone gears up to start the new year off right, with resolutions and plans firmly fixed, we thought it would be a good idea to help you start the year off with mosquito management in mind.  It may seem like an odd month to be thinking about mosquito control, but changes you make now can have a big impact come spring. In Texas mosquitoes rarely hibernate. Temperatures need to be under 55 degrees for a week, or we need to have three deep freezes in a row for that to happen.  February brings a steady increase to the population, with a major population jump in March. What you do this month can have an impact on that population and make your spring and summer a little less itchy. So, while you are packing away the decorations, and perhaps doing some house sorting, come along with us as we guide you in some sorting outside as well.

Controlling Water in Your Yard

As we always say (and we can’t say it enough) water is your greatest enemy when it comes to controlling mosquitoes in your yard. As the leaves gather and pine needles fill the yard, it is easy to lose sight of areas in the yard holding water. It’s not just water in containers either but moist, dark soil, that will breed mosquitoes. Keeping up on the raking and leaf litter will have a big impact for you. Mosquitoes are not hibernating, so they are busy laying eggs in all those spots. If exercise is on your list of resolutions this year getting out and raking and clearing is a great way to get a workout, and the results truly will make your yard more pleasant come spring.

Once you have all the leaves and pine needles cleared, you can walk your property and spot any potential containers holding water. Plant pots, wheelbarrows, kids’ toys, tarps; anything that holds a teaspoon of water or more will be an issue. Tip over the pots, turn the wheelbarrow upside down and be sure to drain all the toys of water before you put them away. We have had customers with issues in their garage and discovered they put the kids’ toys away full of water, producing thousands of mosquitoes.

Gutters, Drains, and Down Spouts

Another important area to clean are your gutters. It’s easy to forget to look up and all those leaves and pine needles can cause huge issues. Pockets of water along with degrading leaves are a favorite for mosquitoes. If you have tire swings, be sure to drill a couple of holes in the bottom so water can drain out and do the same for your garbage cans as they can hold a lot of water if not closed tight before a rain.

Keeping up with your yard now will make a big difference in the spring. While we don’t clean gutters, Mosquito Joe will take care of all the standing water in your yard. So, if you want to start 2020 off with an itch-free aim, just give us a call. Happy New Year!

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Reducing Stress Over The Holidays

December can be a magical month, filled with parties and school events and family get togethers. It can also be a stressful time for many, both in terms of time management and planning and your wallet. So, as we begin this month, we wanted to share some great tips to help you manage the stress and enjoy this special time of year.

Make a plan: Before anything else start with a plan. Divide your list into categories, such as shopping, cooking, invitations etc., and then work with what you have left in terms of time.  Be realistic, compromise and be ok with that. So much stress comes from aiming for perfection and giving yourself more to do than time allows. This is a season of joy so make sure you allow time for it!

Gift giving: Set a budget and stick to it.  Once you have the budget (per person) you can draw up a gift giving list.  Shopping online can be a great way to reduce stress. You can shop in pajamas (immediate win) and cost compare quickly.  Consider charitable giving in lieu of gifts for adults who have enough and ask them to return the favor. If you are travelling this season, simplify your packing and your lists with gift cards instead. The most important takeaway here is to stick to what you can afford.  The biggest stressor this time of year can be a financial one.

Wrapping: Wrap as you go to save a last-minute panic.  Keep it simple – use the same paper for each gift and give up fancy, expensive bows for string. (think Julie Andrews and her brown paper packages wrapped up with string).  The end result can be stunning in its simplicity and save you on the hidden costs of wrapping.

Plan ahead: Whether it be travel, get togethers or cooking, planning ahead can save you a lot of headaches later.  If you are having a get together at your home, delegate some responsibility to others. When it comes to baking and cooking, don’t shy away from pre-preparation and freezing.  It doesn’t have to all be done last minute. On the day of the party, take 30 minutes to clean up the house. It doesn’t have to be perfect and getting caught up in attempts to make it so will always fail.

Decorating:  Go for a monochrome look and use what you have on hand.  Save Christmas cards and frame them, or fill bowls with simple ornaments.  A few clipped berries from the yard can add festive cheer without the expense of fancy decorations. Christmas music and some cinnamon heating on the stove in water will do wonders.

Make time for you: Routine is important and can keep you grounded, so don’t throw out your usual morning cup or an afternoon walk because it’s December.  Those moments will keep you sane. Be sure to schedule breaks amongst the madness.

Know when to stop and be satisfied with good enough.  And then stop! Know when to say no and what you can and can’t do.  Gift giving can be difficult and sometimes thinking outside the box can get you to that great idea.  Some of our customers buy a season of mosquito service for their family and we love the creativity of that.  Their family love it too when they are outside the next summer. Sometimes stepping away from the commercialism of the season will help get those creative juices flowing.

Whatever you do this season, we hope that you are able to keep your stress low and your joy high.  After all, that is what this month is about.

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Preparing for a Warm Thanksgiving

According to Accuweather, this Thanksgiving should be a sunny day with highs in high sixties.  Last year the high hit 75, and we can’t help thinking (at the time of writing) that high 60’s may be a little wishful thinking.  Historically we are wearing shorts this time of year and many of our customers enjoy their Thanksgiving meal outside. We know we do!

Perhaps the idea of BBQing a turkey is an odd one but it sure beats slaving over a hot oven.  Even better, get the games on outside and enjoy a day of relaxation, sun (we hope) and the more relaxed feel of a BBQ.

There are a TON of recipes online for grilling a turkey and many are specific to the type of grill you have. For example, if you have a charcoal kettle grill you can check out the Coupon Clipping Cook for a recipe.  A 19-pound turkey will take 4:45 to complete.  For a gas grill you can check out Epicurious where a 14-16 pound turkey takes about 2 hours.  If you have a large grill and a large family, you can consider grilling two turkeys.  One recipe we are really taken with is a BBQ Turkey with apples, and you can find it here.

Beyond the turkey there are a huge number of grilling options for sides.  From Grilled green beans and mashed grilled potatoes, to grilled apple crisp with toffee, if you have the space on your BBQ you can create an entire feast outside.  Even Martha Stewart has celebrated being in the South by opting for a Thanksgiving feast alfresco and you can check out her selection of sides (and the turkey) here.  Even if you don’t have the grill space for it, you can pre-prepare your sides early, and keep them warm them in the oven while you relax outside with the family. 

The takeaway for us is that Thanksgiving is what you make it.  If you prefer the solemnity of a formal meal or the traditions of a family gathering in the dining room we totally get it.  But if you are looking for something more relaxed, with football on the screen and kids running amok, a barbeque is a great option.  Setting up the TV outside, gathering up some chairs and even setting up a treasure (mini-pumpkin) hunt for the kids, is a great way to change things up and start new traditions.  Where better to celebrate Thanksgiving outside than Texas?

In our hunt for great recipes and ideas we landed on Southern Kitchen, who not only has a great article on outdoor Thanksgiving parties, but a ton of ideas for decorations, activities, drinks and food.  Check it out here for more inspiration

Options to consider, that may not leap to mind immediately, are creating separate areas in the yard for lots of activities.  Horseshoes is a simple option you can set up for adults and children alike (check out our blog post from July for DIY backyard games you can make easily).  Set up a craft area for the kids to decorate mini pumpkins with glue on eyes and sprinkles. The football zone goes without saying, but if you are lucky and have the space, consider a game of touch football to get folks out of their chairs and mingling.  Setting up a firepit to gather around when the sun goes down is a great way to keep the party going. Since the clocks have changed, consider outdoor lighting – string lights are simple and inexpensive and can make any backyard beautiful. Finally, don’t forget to call Mosquito Joe so you can enjoy the day without mosquitoes and bugs ruining the fun.  This is Texas after all, and mosquitoes are the one thing we are not thankful for this time of year.

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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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