Template for a town mosquito-control plan

I created this page because I think all towns should have a webpage detailing its mosquito plan. If you are a mayor please feel free to copy and adapt — and contact me if you have questions. Note: there’s a Mosquitoville in Vermont but my usage of the name is just a coincidence.

Asian rock pool mosquito (Ochlerotatus japonicus)

The Borough of Mosquitoville coordinates with residents and county and state officials to help minimize the numbers of mosquitoes as well as any disease risk they might present. In addition to the information on this page we will also send timely, more-detailed tips via Twitter, Facebook, Nextdoor, and email (register here) as well publish notices in the town paper. We also have a yearly demonstration at the Mosquitoville Farmers Market where we show how to prevent mosquitoes from breeding and how to kill larvae. If you are on Facebook, please join the Mosquitoville Residents Against Mosquitoes group for sharing news and strategies with your neighbors.

Prevention tips

Mosquitoes require standing water to breed so by eliminating places where water can pool, residents can largely eliminate mosquitoes. Even a bottle cap left outside can hold enough water to support dozens of larvae.

  1. Here are some objects that should be drained after every rain: watering cans, garbage cans, garbage can lids, recycling bins, lips of plastic bins when stored upside-down, kiddie pools (and lips, when stored upside-down), plastic kid toys, inflatable pool furniture, pool covers, grill covers, plant pot saucers, unused glazed pots, pet water bowls, wheelbarrows, trash bags waiting for pickup, plastic tarps on firewood, unattached tires.
  2. If tree holes or bamboo stalks collect water, fill with sand.
  3. Clean gutters regularly so that water doesn’t pool.
  4. Flexible downspout extension with waterReplace all corrugated gutter extenders (photograph at right) with pipes that do not collect water.
  5. Landscape area that receives air conditioner condensate so that puddle not formed.
  6. For places and objects that cannot be easily drained (bird baths, fish ponds, rain barrels), add granules of Bti, a bacterium (Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis) that kills mosquito larvae and nothing else. Mosquitoville Hardware sells it. You can also buy it online. Bti should be reapplied every several weeks. It is completely safe for mammals, birds, fish, and spiders. It is also safe for all other insects except mosquitoes, so using it liberally will not kill beneficial insects such as butterflies.
  7. Sprinkle Bti on plants that hold water (e.g., bromeliads).
  8. If you see pooled water on town property, report it to the Public Works Department at (800-867-5309; publicworks@mosquitoville.org). Examples are trash bins at parks, abandoned tires, construction material at job sites, ditches, road swales. All Public Works vehicles have a generous supply of Bti dunks and granules and employees are eager to put them to good use — don’t hesitate to call!

Egg and larvae traps

Larvicidal trap with Bacillus thuringiensis israelensisFor residents who are crafty, equip black containers with stagnant water, a few decaying leaves, a stick, and crumbled Bti dunks. Female mosquitoes will lay eggs in these containers and then the larvae will be killed almost instantly by the Bti when they hatch. If you have multiple traps on your property you can interrupt the reproduction of mosquitoes — just remember that you have to keep refreshing the Bti. You can also make containers that trap the larvae under screening (Instructables directions), which is great because you don’t need to keep replacing the Bti during the summer.

Killing adults

  1. Prune ground vegetation that provides hiding places for mosquitoes during the day. Without moist vegetation to hide in many adults will die on hot, dry days (research). Removing English ivy is especially recommended (the species is an invasive weed that also damages trees and buildings).
  2. If you are crafty, attach fine mess fabric to a fan and place fan next to where you sit outside. Then coat fabric with pyrethroid spray (most outdoors stores carry this). When mosquitoes approach to bite they will be sucked onto the pyrethroid-coated fabric, which kills them on contact. This is also is highly recommended strategy for chicken coops.
  3. Purchase a propane-fueled carbon dioxide bait trap. These can be expensive but if you paid a lot for your yard, consider them as investments akin to a home security system. Situate the trap near the source of mosquitoes, not where the family congregates (tips). Companies are improving the designs constantly so do research to see which ones are right for your area.
  4. Purchase cheaper, odor-based mosquito traps. These do work on some mosquito species, though not as well as the propane systems. “Bug Zappers” do not work (they mainly kill moths).
  5. Arm your family with electronic mosquito racquets. These are traditionally marketed for controlling houseflies but also work with mosquitoes. Killing just one mosquito might seem futile but that’s one less female laying hundreds of eggs.

Third-party insecticide fogging

Mosquito Shield sign in yardThere are several companies in the area (e.g., Mosquito Shield, Mosquito Squad, Mosquito Joe) that will come and spray your yard with pyrethroids (synthetic neurotoxins) to kill mosquitoes. However, there are some side-effects of doing this and we urge residents to consider them before proceeding. The primary consequence is that pyrethroids also kill fish, butterflies, moths, solitary bees, fireflies, crickets, etc., not just mosquitoes. Outside cats are also at risk (dogs are not). Another concern is that honey bees pick up the dried pesticide when they walk on treated plants, contaminating honey (research article) produced by local beekeepers (there are approximately 15 hives in Mosquitoville). If you do decide to hire a company to spray pyrethroids (approximately $800 per season), please inform your neighbors in advance and be present when the spraying happens. Also, please insist that the company provide a paper copy of the Material Data Safety Sheet (MSDS) of the active ingredient of the spray before giving them any money. The MSDS information is important because different pyrethroids have different risk profiles. If a company refuses to give you this document just find a different company.

If you are a neighbor of somebody who contracts with a third-party pest-control company, please know that you can write to the company and request to be notified in advance of every spraying. You can also request a paper copy of the ingredients of the spray.

For more information please see “Effects of mosquito sprays on humans, pets, and wildlife“.

Repellents

Most mosquito species cannot reproduce without a blood meal, so using repellents is a big part of control efforts. The CDC regularly evaluates repellents for efficacy and includes the following in its recommendations: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-methane-diol, and 2-undecanone. If something is not on this list it is likely to be ineffective even if there are articles on the internet stating otherwise. For example, plants labeled as “citronella mosquito plants” (Pelargonium citrosum) have no repellency against mosquitoes when evaluated in actual experiments.

West Nile Virus

The State regularly tests mosquitoes and dead birds in Mosquito County for the presence of West Nile Virus (WNV), a disease that resides in birds but is transmitted to humans by members of the genus Culex. In addition, they monitor the number of human cases of WNV that are reported by physicians. If testing shows disease prevalence above a certain level, State officials may order that larvicides and/or adulticides be sprayed from airplanes, helicopters, or trucks in certain towns. Aerial spraying is usually the default because Culex mosquitoes are high up in trees with the birds. We will inform residents that spraying will happen, what chemicals will be used, and communicate exactly when spraying starts and stops. Residents should cover bee hives, cover vegetables (if feasible), makes sure pets and children are inside, and (if applicable) bring in monarch butterfly larvae along with extra milkweed leaves. Although the sprays are relatively safe for vertebrates, the insecticides applied are broad-spectrum so you might notice a drop in non-target organisms like butterflies, fireflies, and bees.

If you find a dead bird, please call the Dead Bird Hotline so that a State official can collect the carcass and test it for West Nile Virus. Do not touch the bird.

Please note that Mosquitoville cannot prevent the state from spraying. However, we remind the local authorities that we are a Bee Friendly City as well as a Monarch City and that we prefer to be sprayed only when human health is threatened.

Zika Virus

The Borough of Mosquitoville is currently not in an area with any reported Zika in either mosquitoes or humans. We are, however, in an area with Aedes sp., vectors of Zika, so we regularly monitor the CDC’s page on Zika and will alert residents if the disease is reported in the state.

Pesticide Hypersensitivity Registry

If you are hypersensitive to pesticides, please complete and mail in the forms to place yourself on the registry. Then if state-mandated sprays are delivered by trucks, drivers will automatically turn off the sprayers when they come to your property. You will also be notified by the State in case you wish to leave the area during spraying.

Apiary registration

Beekeepers are encouraged to register their hives with the State so that sprayers can skip over your property if spraying for West Nile Virus is ordered. Honey bees are acutely sensitive to pyrethroids and spraying at night only minimizes the risk. On a very warm night, for example, hundreds of bees will be outside the hive fanning and thus would be coated with the pesticide fog. Honey bees also pick up pesticide residue that is dried onto plants.

Asian tiger mosquitoes (dead)Mosquito identification

Best practices for preventing and killing mosquitoes vary by species so to be most effective in controlling populations, identify the ones in your yard. If you can take a macro photograph of eggs, larvae, or adult, you can get often get identifications by posting the image on iNaturalist. The CDC has a useful PDF. The U.S. Army has a more detailed guide (PDF).

Additional resources

How to help your community create an effective mosquito management plan” PDF from the Scott Hoffman Black and others at the Xerces Society.

Questions or concerns?

Please contact frontdesk@mosquitoville.org.