Mosquitos and Ew!

Janet Laminack, County Extension Agent-Horticulture, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

With all the rain we’ve had, it’s little surprise that mosquitoes are having a population boom. The mosquito that carries the West Nile Virus can reproduce in mere teaspoons of standing water. Teaspoons?! My clay-soil yard has several teaspoon-sized pools when it rains, but we don’t have to really worry unless it doesn’t drain within seven to 10 days. When we are super soggy, it’s really important to wear insect repellent any time you are outside. Different mosquitoes come out at different times of the day, so always wearing repellent is recommended. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends repellents that contain at least one of these active ingredients: DEET, Picaridin, or IR3535. If you want an organic repellent, try oil of lemon eucalyptus. Research shows (and the CDC recommends) this as an effective repellent, however, it does need to be reapplied more frequently than the other types. You will also have the bonus of smelling like a freshly lemon-Pledge-dusted piece of furniture.

Now to prevent or curtail mosquito breeding, dump out all standing water. Areas such as gutters that contain organic material like soil and leaves are great incubators for mosquitos. You may not even realize there’s water there. Check tarps, flower pots, buckets, outdoor toys, or even low spots in lawns. If you have a fountain or any other water holding vessel that cannot be dumped, use a larvicide that is based on Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). This bacteria feeds on fly larvae, has very little environmental effect and is safe for non-target insects and mammals. Also, treating the larvae is much more effective and has a lower environmental impact than treating adult mosquitoes. Be sure to follow the label on these products and note that they are only effective for about 30 days. For more mosquito information, visit tinyurl.com/katrctj4.

And now for something completely different—we have a new invasive creature to be aware of. It has been grabbing headlines, so perhaps you are already familiar with it. It’s the hammerhead flatworm and personally, I find it completely unsettling in appearance. To make matters worse, this shovel-headed monster eats earthworms. Earthworms! That’s like picking on puppies, it’s just plain mean.

Things to know about this worm is that it could be toxic to pets if they eat it or cause skin irritation to humans. Also, cutting the worm into pieces just makes more worms, so don’t do that. This is the stuff of nightmares. The way to kill the worms is by using citrus oil and salt. Or by spraying with vinegar. It’s recommended to put the worm in a Ziploc bag with salt or vinegar so that it doesn’t run away while being treated. If you happen upon one of these little monsters, please take a picture along with coordinates of the location and send in an email to Ashley Morgan-Olvera at [email protected] For more information, visit tinyurl.com/wbz8kcm6.

Be careful out there!

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension provides equal opportunities in its programs and employment to all persons, regardless of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, genetic information, veteran status, sexual orientation, or gender identity. The Texas A&M University System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the County Commissioners Courts of Texas Cooperating.