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Backyard comfort can be had by controlling mosquitoes

Lets talk about that annoying insect, mosquitoes.

As the mosquito season gathers momentum, an enormous amount of consumer interest continues to be generated by the marketing of new devices designed to attract, then either trap or kill, mosquitoes. The general idea is to reduce the number of questing mosquitoes that would otherwise be afflicting the homeowner. Many products, by extension, claim to significantly reduce or even collapse local mosquito populations by decreasing the number of egg-laying females through their capture.

Power supplies for each type of mosquito trap varies. Some are totally self-contained, utilizing propane to provide both power and a source of carbon dioxide as an attractant. These units have the advantage of portability, allowing them to be placed at a considerable distance away from home-sites. This may be an important consideration on larger properties, i.e. those over an acre in area, by allowing mosquitoes to be intercepted long before they come into the vicinity of human activity. This portability comes at a price, though, for the thermoelectric generator that uses excess heat from the combustion process to generate electricity to run the intake fans is quite expensive. Most units rely upon power cords utilizing AC outlets. This limits them somewhat to smaller areas served by extension cords, but their price is commensurately less than their self-contained counterparts.

All of these traps utilize some form of attractant that lures the host-seeking female mosquitoes to a capture or killing device. In some cases, mosquitoes are captured by an impellor fan that draws them into a net, where they desiccate. Other trapping systems use a sticky surface to which the mosquitoes adhere when they land. Still others utilize an electric grid to electrocute mosquitoes drawn into contact. These are not set-and-forget devices - each requires some level of maintenance, i.e. capture nets need emptying, adhesive boards require replacement and grids require cleaning, to ensure their continued effectiveness, particularly in areas of high catch.

Several of the trapping systems include a separate device designed to reduce human attractiveness to questing female mosquitoes, thus making the attractants in the capturing device placed elsewhere more effective. These masking devices usually consist of a plastic casing enclosing a fan powered by 2 AA batteries. The fan helps distribute a plume of a proprietary substance that ostensibly masks human odors to mosquitoes. Thus, female mosquitoes do not recognize humans within the area as food sources. These devices are appropriate for patio use, but the manufacturer’s recommended number based upon square footage may need to be doubled in order to receive desirable results.

Studies are currently underway to provide insight into the comparative efficiency of many of these trapping devices on the market. With the continual introduction of improved trapping models onto the consumer market, it’s unlikely that this research will provide a definitive winner over the long term. Nonetheless, they should provide a snapshot of which systems capture more mosquitoes in head-to-head competition under identical conditions.

Please be cautioned against putting too much faith in traps as your sole means of control. These traps represent an evolving technology that is a most welcome addition to our mosquito control armamentarium. Their potential is great, but shouldn’t be overestimated. It’s highly unlikely that these devices, whatever their improvements, will ever fully supplant organized community-wide mosquito control programs, for there is no single silver bullet that will prove to be the ultimate answer to mosquito problems. Effective mosquito management requires integrating a variety of available control strategies i.e. surveillance, source reduction, biological control methods, traps, environmentally friendly larvicides, and, when necessary, application of public health adulticides, into a comprehensive program that exploits known mosquito vulnerabilities. They are the result of almost one hundred years of experience in making mosquito control in the United States the safest and most technically proficient in the world today.



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