Itching for a Battle

The Asian tiger mosquito: Bloodsucker, disease carrier and breeder extraordinaire.
The Asian tiger mosquito: Bloodsucker, disease carrier and breeder extraordinaire. (New Orleans Mosquito And Termite Control)

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By Annie Groer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 1, 2006

All right, we've been warned by the experts.

The Asian tiger mosquito, a potential carrier of West Nile virus whose population in this area has been climbing for a decade, can breed in a bottle-cap full of water. It will suck our blood round the clock, rather than just at dawn and dusk like its less voracious cousins. And it may be particularly drawn to the smell of human feet.

True, we can wear socks, although the pesky vectors can bite through thin summer clothing. Certainly we can cover ourselves with repellents containing DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) every few hours, but this most effective compound must be used with care, especially on small children.

So if we can't do much to keep them from biting, at least we can try to interfere with their breeding. The key to overriding the Asian tiger mosquito is to remove all sources of exterior water, thereby depriving the female of a place to lay her eggs.

Some of those water sources are obvious. Some may never have crossed your mind: the last few droplets in a garden hose, a mini-puddle left inside the grill, a few inches of liquid in a doggie bowl or a child's plastic shovel. All are enemy territory.

Regrettably, even if we rid our own property of all standing water, it won't do much good if the neighbors never empty their birdbath, or they fail to drop a mosquito dunk (a doughnut-shaped product that releases larva-killing bacteria) into their fishpond. This resilient insect can fly miles in a day.

In short, residential mosquito control, like so many other endeavors, really does take a village.


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