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You, Your Family & West Nile Virus

West Nile Virus is a global problem that continues to affect populations throughout North America. Many people are under the misconception that the problem mosquitoes, Figure 1, that carry the virus, are only found in and around marsh lands, streams, lakes and other bodies of water.

West Nile virus mosquito gardening landscape
Figure 1 - Mosquito

Protecting yourself and your family from West Nile Virus is a home improvement project that should be a top priority on your to do list.

This couldn't be farther from the truth. Although there are mosquito populations in those areas, the largest risk from populations in urban centers is standing water that exists in and around our homes throughout North America.

No one individual can put a stop to, or eradicate the West Nile Virus or the mosquitoes that carry it. However, everyone should take major responsibility for protecting themselves and their family from mosquito populations that reside around their homes.

There are numerous formulations of personal mosquito repellents that can be purchased at most pharmacies. The pharmacist or other staff members can discuss which of the formulations best suits your geographic area and family life style.

After protecting your family with the use of mosquito repellents there are a number of things that you can do around your home to help; eliminate areas where mosquito larvae will develop into potentially killer bugs!

  • Standing water must be eliminated from your property. There are many sources of standing water and it only takes a small amount of detective work to identify and remove them:
  • Car and truck tires left outside are a major area of standing water and an excellent facility for the breeding of mosquito larvae. The standing water in car and truck tires can accumulate from a few sources - rain and from watering gardens and lawns. Some individuals use tires as gardening and landscape features. If this is your situation, drill holes in the lowest part of the tire to allow any water to drain out. If the tires are no longer required, remove them from the property and ensure that they are not left somewhere else where they will accumulate standing water.
  • We love to see and hear our feathered friends in our garden and to draw them to our homes, we buy and install bird baths. Bird baths are an excellent area for standing water and standing water is the location for mosquito larvae. As nice as the birds are, the standing water overshadows them and bird baths should be removed!
  • Water features are a very popular landscape and garden features and if properly installed and maintained they can be safe. Ensure that the water feature is properly aerated - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • If appropriate add fish that are known to eat mosquito larvae. Besides helping to control the virus, fish are a great aesthetic addition to a water feature.
  • Decrease the amount of water plants within the water feature. Even if your water feature is well aerated, water plants can provide small areas of standing water in and amongst their leaves. A small area of standing water is more than enough to provide a breeding ground for mosquito larvae.
  • The use of tarps or other materials to protect boats, trailers and greenhouses generally have indents in the covering that provide an area for the retention of water. Tighten the tarps and if necessary place objects under the tarps to eliminate any areas that could become targets for standing water.
  • Stand wheelbarrows upright on their wheels or handles in order to prevent the bucket from collecting rain and sprinkler water.
  • Pails, buckets, and flowerpots are all major water collectors. In many cases flower pots stacked together may appear dry, but because of the holes in the bottom of the pots, there may be standing water collecting in the bottom pot. Place these items in areas that are protected from rain and/or sprinklers.
  • Rain barrels are perfect havens for mosquito larvae. The best method of protecting yourself from mosquito larvae developing in rain barrels is to remove them from your property!
  • Rain gutters that are designed to take roof water runoff and send it to drainage work perfectly, providing they are not filled with debris. It takes very little dirt, leaves and/or small tree branches to stop the flow of water in rain gutters and as a result provide trapped areas of standing water.
  • Most children, and some adults, love to play in a small wading pool. Wading pools, without aeration are pools of standing water. Protect yourself and your family by placing a tarp, over wading pools when they are not in use. Not only will this prevent mosquitoes from placing their larvae in them, the wading pools will be much cleaner.
  • Over watering plants, trees, and shrubs can easily create pools of water, that can last for days. This is especially a problem if you have used mulch in and around your garden beds. Mulch, as it is designed to do, holds moisture and water can easily be trapped between the mulch and the earth creating pools of standing water that you don't even see and are unaware of.
  • Decks can provide a sheltered haven for mosquito larvae. Mosquito larvae loves to be in standing water in shaded areas. As rain water seeps between the joints in deck boards it can easily accumulate under a deck and will not evaporate quickly as the sun cannot get to them. The water can accumulate from rain or from hosing down the deck. Under decks is also a great place for children to play. Mosquito larvae and children playing is not a combination that you wish to encourage.
  • If your home has window wells, it is not uncommon to find pools of standing water after a rain. Proper drainage in the widow well and ensuring that it is free from debris will help prevent standing water from forming.
  • Any item that resides on your property that has a dimple, or low spot becomes a potential breeding ground for the West Nile virus. In many cases we don't consider the potential for standing water in child playground products (many of these are made using vacuum formed hollow plastic tubes and rectangles). The molds used to form these products require that there be holes in the finished product. These products can easily provide internal pools of standing water. The same situation applies to lawn furniture and barbeques. If you have hollow tubing, drill holes at the bottom to allow the water to escape.
  • Be alert, do not touch dead birds, and make sure that your children are aware that dead birds must be left in place. If you do find a dead bird on your property, call your local health department and they will arrange for its safe removal.

Planning your gardening or landscape project is important to avoid areas where standing water can accumulate. Before starting your next gardening project consider West Nile Virus as part of your design - don't build a breeding ground for mosquito larvae.

Additional Information on:

Mosquitoes & West Nile Virus;

Landscaping & West Nile Virus.