The global effect of climate change is that more vulnerable species disappear in favor of more resilient species, like ticks and mosquitos. Mosquitos and ticks are a serious health threat, and the chances are that the number of these types of pests will increase in the future. So what is the best way to deal with these pests?
Natural Mosquito Management
A healthy environment, including cleaner water and air, improves the number of natural predators, like frogs, fish and bats, that can keep the mosquito population at bay. Our conventional lawn management, regretfully, has a detrimental effect on those predators and especially on amphibians. In order to fight mosquitoes, we need to invest in the health of those natural predators. This means promoting Healthy Yards practices and discouraging conventional lawn care methods. When some disease or infestation is getting out of hand, mechanical, organic or toxin-free options are usually available. But be aware that “toxin free” means that these applications are safe for humans; if mosquito larvae are killed, other larvae will also be killed, including those of beneficial insects. Rather than spraying the yard with an insecticide, consider a deterrent, and make sure mosquitoes cannot enter the home. Fans are very effective for outdoor seating areas. Also, understand that mosquitoes will reproduce in tiny amounts of standing water, and even in moisture around plants. Limit unnatural breeding areas, like tires and buckets. Mosquito dunks can be used in bird baths and rain barrels, and are safe for fish, birds and wildlife. Know that if placed in a pond they will also kill larvae of beneficial insects, like Dragonflies.
With our fragmented yards and lawns we have created an ideal habitat for deer and small rodents, the carriers of ticks. Ticks have become a very concerning problem and can cause several serious illnesses. Many landscaping companies have started to offer tick control services, but the truth is, there are no fool-proof strategies. When we spend time outdoors, we need to do daily body checks.
If you have a small lawn you can consider a cedar oil application, or another organic solution, and/or border the lawn with a gravel path. These “barriers” deter rodents, which carry the ticks, from entering your yard. Be aware that pesticides, both conventional and organic, also kill the beneficial insects in your yard. If you have few insects in your yard you will deter natural predators of ticks, such as birds. The best option is to keep a short mown area, in a sunny location, where you will be using the lawn for entertainment. Avoid going into the areas that ticks prefer: bushy, moist parts of the yard.
Promising results have been found with rodent bait boxes or tick tubes that coat rodents with fipronil (the same type of toxin as used in Frontline) or permethrin with the use of cotton balls that are treated with the same solution, and which the rodents will take into their nests. Another approach are ‘4-poster’ deer treatment feeders.
It is very important to attract birds into your yard. Smaller birds eat ticks, and predator birds eat the rodents that carry the ticks. Make sure you never use rodent toxins: those toxins kill the predator birds that eat the rodents, which creates an even bigger problem. If you have a rodent problem use a mechanical trap.