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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Avoid making your home a haven for mosquitoes

STILLWATER, Okla. – As Oklahomans slog their way through a stormy, rain-soaked spring, homeowners should take extra precautions against conditions inviting mosquitoes.

Aside from cutting the risk of being bitten, doing so will add a layer of safety against the West Nile virus. The virus is spread through the bite of infected mosquitoes, which pick up the disease from feeding on diseased birds.

In Oklahoma, the West Nile virus is, in part, related to the rise of the Culex mosquito, said Justin Talley, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension livestock entomologist.

“Culex mosquitoes are most active in the morning and evening, especially close to dark, and they’re so small, sometimes people don’t even realize they’ve been bitten,” Talley said.

West Nile-infected mosquitoes can occur anywhere, said Bruce Noden, OSU medical and veterinary entomologist.

“The storm drains and locations where Culex mosquitoes breed occur in both urban and rural areas in all parts of the state,” Noden said.

Household items such as buckets or tarps collecting water can turn into fertile breeding grounds for mosquitoes, said Gina Peek, OSU Cooperative Extension housing and consumer specialist.

“The key is to cut down on any areas around the house where water could build up,” she said. “For instance, you should refill your outdoor pet’s water bowl everyday.”

This also means properly maintaining outdoor hot tubs and swimming pools, as well as draining plastic wading pools when they are not being used, and storing them so they cannot collect water.

Boats should be covered or turned upside down.

Meanwhile, clear your home’s gutters of leaves and debris that could collect water if clogged, and discourage potential mosquito habitats by keeping the grass trimmed and brush dismantled.

“Around the outside of your house, repair or replace broken or torn window and door screens and fix leaky lawn irrigation spouts,” Peek said. “Birdbaths should be rinsed, scrubbed and refilled on a weekly basis.”

If you are planning to be outside, especially during the times of day when mosquitoes are most active, wear long pants, long sleeves, socks and shoes.

However, a repellent with 10 percent to 30 percent DEET is the most effective option, Talley said. You also can apply Picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus to exposed skin and clothing, but not underneath any clothing.

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