Mosquito Hawks: Do They Bite?

Over the years we have discovered that the mosquito hawk gets a lot of blame it doesn’t deserve. We have been called back to customers’ homes because they have “giant mosquitoes we failed to kill” only to discover they have mosquito hawks hatching. We thought it was time to clear the air.

There are over 14,000 species of mosquito hawks and likely more have not yet been discovered. They live all over the globe, but we will try and limit our information here to those that we live with here in the Houston area.

The correct name for a mosquito hawk is a Crane Fly, although we have heard them referred to as “Daddy Long Legs”, “Skeeter Eater” and “Giant Mosquito”. Crane flies do not bite – they have no mouth parts with which to do so. They only live about 10 days, spending that time focused primarily on mating. If they do “eat” it is limited to drinking nectar or dew. They also don’t eat mosquitoes despite what you may have heard.

green frog in pond
The life cycle of a Crane Fly is typically a year. Eggs are laid in later summer, usually in wet soil or algae, or for some species, in water. The larvae then hatch from these eggs and are grub-like in their appearance. A Crane fly will spend months in its larval form (some species up to 5 years!). They busy themselves breaking down decaying material in your yard and can be very beneficial to your soil as a result.

The European and Marsh Crane flies are considered an invasive species in the USA. They will feed off, and often destroy, crops. Others will feed off rotting wood and can cause damage to homes as they do so. But the majority will spend their time in the soil aerating it for you and participating in the food chain. In mid to late spring the larvae pupate into tough, brown carcasses often referred to as “leather jackets”. They are found just below the soil’s surface.
 Golf course with turf field. Crane fly pupae can cause damage to turf, causing brown spots.

Crane fly pupae can cause damage to turf grass and can often cause brown spots, particularly seen on golf courses. Keeping your lawn manicured and dry will help prevent an abundance of these insects, thereby reducing your potential for this.

Porch light - some species of crane flies are attracted to light, so it's common to see them in this area. The pupae will emerge as fully-grown Crane flies in late summer or fall. You may see large numbers of them at times as the males swarm in search of females with which to breed. During this short time, they won’t eat, perhaps using their sucking mouth parts to drink if given the opportunity, or to feed on nectar. Most females lay their eggs within 24 hours of hatching, laying them once again in wet soil, algae, or water.

Crane flies are completely harmless to humans, neither biting nor carrying disease. They can provide important sustenance to the birds and beetles in your yard. Some species are attracted to light, and you will often see them kicking around your windows at night, or around your outside lights.

In short, these insects provide valuable benefits both as a food source for birds and other insects and to your soil. They have nothing to do with mosquitoes. On the other hand, if mosquitoes are your issue, we have a lot of blog posts that can give you more information about them. Of course, we can also get rid of them for you. Just give us a call and we can get you a free quote, no strings – 281-815-0228.

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Outdoor Lighting and Mosquitoes

Did you know that October is notoriously voted the favorite month of the year? With fall weather cooling us down (ever so slightly here in Texas), people tend to spend more time outdoors enjoying the month with pumpkins, coffee, and Halloween festivities. It also means moving our celebrations and family gatherings from inside to outside, decorating our patios, and having our meals under string lights. However, with increased outdoor lighting comes an increase in mosquitoes – but why?

Mosquitoes are attracted to many aspects of fall weather – less direct sunlight, cooler days, and even cooler nights. While many other pests are attracted to light, mosquitoes rely on it to help them find a blood source once they have spotted your CO2 plumes from a distance. As a result, mosquito issues may increase around porch lights and bright areas around homes. Their bites usually occur in the evening and at night when many mosquito species are active. The increase in landscape and fairy lights in your yard can not only draw more bugs into your yard, but help mosquitoes find you. This goes for patio and porch lights too! While many people like to keep these lights on through the night, they act as neon signs for mosquitoes, midges, gnats, june bugs, and other unwelcome insects. You can save yourself a lot of trouble and bugs by turning these lights off when you aren’t outside.

outdoor tablesSo, what can you do instead to help prevent sharing your yard with mosquitoes and other bugs? As far as lighting, security/motion detection lights are the way to go. Having lights that do not remain on for extended periods of time reduces the chance of attracting insects to string lights and regular patio/porch lights. Of course, you can’t have dinner or family gatherings under the on-again-off-again glow of a security light. Instead, simply limit the amount of time you have these string, patio, and landscaping lights on before spending time outdoors.

outdoor lighting

As we increase the time we spend outdoors we often find an increase in the use of mosquito traps. These typically include glowing electric lamps, citronella candles, and torches. Many of these do not help and some will make matters worse. Much like outdoor or patio lights, these sources of light draw pests toward them. From a distance, mosquitoes rely on their sense of smell, specifically hunting down CO2 plumes that we or other animals emit. Once closer, they can use visual cues to assess a blood source. While they are still seeking a source of CO2, light aids their poor visibility and makes for an easier search. From very close proximity, typically within 1-3 feet, mosquitoes then rely on thermal sensory input to locate heat and moisture sources. This prevents them from wasting time on objects such as rocks, vegetation, and mosquito repellent products. This means that mosquito traps do a great job of leading pests to you rather than truly repelling them; you can learn more about the true effectiveness of mosquito repellent products here! Instead, get more bang for your buck by investing in mosquito control services and simply limiting light and water sources in your yard.

A new option Mosquito Joe offers is the Thermacell LIV system, which you turn on when you are outside remotely with your phone. This device emits a pesticide in the form of an odor which keeps mosquitoes and biting midges out of your patio area. You can combine this with a barrier service (which removes 95% of the mosquitoes in your yard) for complete protection in the evenings. Give us a call/text for a free quote so you can enjoy your lights and the weather without the worry at 281-815-0228.

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Mosquito-Free Gardening: Do’s & Don’ts

September marks the official start of Fall, which means that the Texas weather will be shifting from hot and humid to…. well, warm and humid! Despite the heat, September is a favored growing season and makes a great time for avid gardeners to get outside and do what they love. However, if mosquitoes use your garden as their happy home, being outside can be rather miserable. To help you out here are some gardening ‘dos and don’ts’ that can help prevent or eliminate your mosquito issues.

house outdoorsOne of the most common causes of mosquito issues in your garden is mulch (or pine bark, pine needles, and other similar materials used on garden beds). These ground covers and the wet, shaded soil beneath can contain millions of mosquito eggs due to the moisture they hold. When you lay a new bag of mulch out, you also lay out the thousands of mosquito eggs contained with it, and you will experience a huge surge in your mosquito issues! However, leaving mulch bags out in the yard can have an even worse effect- the sealed, dark damp environment is an ideal home for mosquitoes. If you are going to keep mulch in bags for some time, move them out of the weather to help reduce the issues. Customers with Mosquito Joe will notify us when they add new mulch in the yard so we can be sure to treat these areas well to eliminate these mosquitoes. For those who do not have routine mosquito services, make sure you lay your mulch (or soil) out as soon as you can and don’t overwater.

wheel barrel

On the subject of mulch, the lining used for mulch beds can make a big difference in your mosquito population. Be sure to lay the landscape cloth completely flat so it does not hold pockets of water beneath it. We also recommend using a landscaping cloth material over a tarp, as these won’t allow any water to pass through and will just collect it after weather, creating a never-ending issue in your yard. We’ve seen some real head-scratchers over the years so be sure you know what is being laid under your beds if you opt to have that work done for you.

The manner in which you plant or pot your plants can contribute to issues in your yard as well. When planting in mulch beds, avoid digging holes too deeply into the soil as this will result in standing water each time you water. Conversely, don’t plant too high as that might cause a moat around your plant. For plants in pots, keep an eye on your plant pot saucers, and be sure to regularly dump out any water that collects in them. Whether in a bed or in a pot it is really important to avoid overwatering your plants!

Speaking of plants, please don’t be fooled by the gimmicky advertising on some that declare they are a “mosquito repellant.” You will be disappointed if you plant some of these in the hopes of warding off issues. To learn more about “mosquito repellant” plants and the truth behind them, check out our past blog post – ‘Do Mosquito Repellant Plants Really Work?

yellow-flowers

When working in the garden, keep an eye out for other objects that may hold water you don’t often think about- fountains, bird baths, wheelbarrows, tarps, gutters, drains, or gardening equipment can be the secret to your mosquito problems. Remember that 1 teaspoon of water will result in 300 mosquitoes every couple of days. The innocent water at the bottom of a watering can become a huge issue for you when you are outside. Keep an eye on your drainage system to make sure it is draining well and not holding water. It only takes a few leaves or some displaced mulch to cause a problem.

If you want to enjoy your gardening work without being bitten, consider giving Mosquito Joe a call at 281-815-0228. We treat flower beds with an all-natural product, garlic extract, and will never treat your veggie garden unless the situation warrants it (and we speak with you first). We tailor our services this way to minimize our impact on pollinators and beneficial

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Eco-Friendly Mosquito Control – Putting Our Environment First!

We often receive phone calls from people who are searching for mosquito service but have serious concerns about environmental health and safety. Many believe that the pesticides used can be harmful to beneficial insects and our environment. This can be true if used irresponsibly. Here at Mosquito Joe of of NW Houston we want to assure our customers that this is not how we treat them – we work hard to put our environment first and proudly claim the title of a member of the Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program (PESP)!

What is PESP? The Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program (PESP) is a partnership with the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) to promote and emphasize environmentally conscious pest control services. This includes an emphasis on ‘Integrated Pest Management,’ or IPM, which involves knowledge of pests and their environment, coupled with choosing the lowest risk products or methods to provide a treatment solution! Mosquito Joe’s participation in the PESP focuses on implementing this new, structured IPM program to explore low-risk and environmentally conscious processes and products in our field operations.

mosquito joe technicianFor our customers, this means that Mosquito Joe cares about the health and welfare of our customers and the environment. Our partnership with PESP demonstrates our commitment to providing low-risk outdoor pest control. We make continued efforts to focus on environmental health and safety, are big advocates for bees and other pollinators, and work to be mindful of all different types of flora in your yard! In fact, Mosquito Joe officially holds a ‘silver’ tiered membership status with PESP and is the only backyard mosquito control company that has acquired Silver Tiered accreditation at this time. Our goal is to protect you, your family, pets, and your community from vector-borne diseases while making your outside fun again.

For local residents that have shied away from mosquito services out of concern for the environment, we hear and share those concerns! Mosquito Joe goes the extra mile to ensure that we do everything we can to provide you with the most environmentally conscious pest control service on the market. While we always utilize the IPM program and its measures during all of our services, customers interested in natural pest management options can opt for our ‘Botanical’ and ‘all-natural’ services. Our Botanical service uses a natural compound of essential oils and soap to kill the mosquitoes in your yard, while our all-natural uses strictly concentrated garlic to repel (but not kill) them. No matter which service you choose, our technicians will always treat your flowering plants only with our organic product in an effort to reduce our impact on bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.

bees on lavendar

For environmentally-conscious residents looking to balance good health with environmental protection, Mosquito Joe is the way to go! Pest control has developed a bad reputation over the years for using harsh chemicals and negatively impacting the environment. While we can’t speak for our competitors, environmental responsibility is at the forefront of our minds, developing an individual plan for each yard to maximize results while minimizing impact. As the only backyard mosquito control company that has acquired Silver Tiered accreditation of the Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program, you can rest knowing we go above and beyond to provide the most effective, environmentally responsible service available. For more information on these services, you can check out our FAQs below, or give us a call at 281-815-0228!

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July 4th Mosquitoes

We will not be the only ones celebrating on July 4th. In fact, if mosquitoes could write their ideal situation, they couldn’t do it any better. We have large groups of people – all emitting CO2 plumes to attract them, likely many of those people sweating to attract them further. We also tend to gather on grasses, near woods where mosquitoes are lying in wait. Finally, we all gather at dusk, just the right time for mosquitoes to come out from their shade shelter and the females head out to look for a blood meal.

light bulbHouston has been ranked as the most extreme city in the nation for mosquitoes on July 4th, and many of us can attest that this is true. It’s a familiar story – we head out for an evening of fireworks and get there early so we can relax and enjoy a picnic while we wait. We soon find ourselves sweating and uncomfortable and, no doubt, very thirsty. We immediately run out of water and must go find more and use the restroom. Dusk begins to fall, and we start getting bitten. Eventually, it’s dark and the fireworks start, and in no time at all, it ends. We head home, exhausted, hot, and ready for a shower. As we get undressed, we notice the multitude of bites all over our bodies and remind ourselves we never want to do that again.

So how can we make the evening more bearable if we are headed out to watch the fireworks? There are some things we can do to make ourselves less palatable and attractive to the mosquito. First, though, let’s understand how mosquitoes find us in the first place.

color fireworks

From a distance, mosquitoes look for CO2 plumes to locate their prey. Simply breathing is the first step to drawing one to you and there is little you can do about that. Once they get closer the mosquito will then start picking up olfactory cues – sweat, perfumes, etc. They also start seeing colors. A recent study has shown that mosquitoes do have a preference for some colors over others and you can read more about it here. Wearing brighter colors like orange, black, and red will attract them, while greens and blues may actually deter some species. As mosquitoes get really close they begin to look for a heat source to locate a meal.

fireworks in the skyIn a large crowd, the CO2 plumes are like a flashing siren, and you can’t do much about that. You can, however, control to some extent the scent you produce. Limiting perfumes and “post alcohol” sweat can help. Obviously, bug spray is a good idea. What’s important is that everyone around you also does this because once a mosquito is close it is looking for a heat source and they will no longer distinguish between you and your neighbors. A good, reliable source, for bug spray options, can be found here It’s also a good idea to all wear the colors mentioned in the research, particularly white since it will help keep you cool as well and hence reduce odors that attract them.

If you plan on having your own fireworks at home, then you can do far more to make the evening pleasant. Mosquito Joe of NW Houston offers event services that will get rid of the mosquitoes in your yard for the evening. Give us a call at 281-815-0228 to get a free quote. And to learn more about mosquitoes and what you can do, without hiring us, to reduce them in your yard explore all our other blogs on the topic.

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