Mosquitoes in our neighborhood: yes, you can do something about them!

Mosquitoes are a dreadful nuisance in Mount Pleasant, sometimes so troublesome that we cannot spend time outdoors in our own yards. But we can do something about this problem, if we all work together. The facts about our mosquitoes:

  • The most troublesome variety, the “tiger” mosquito, is a recent arrival. Summertimes 20 years ago weren't nearly so troubled by mosquitoes.

  • Unlike other species, the tiger mosquito feeds all day long, not just around sunset. That's one reason why it's so much more troublesome than the mosquitoes of previous years. It's also exceptionally quick, biting quickly and escaping slaps.

  • Tiger mosquitoes breed in small cups, or containers, of water, not in open water. That's the key to controlling the population. Eliminate such containers, and you'll eliminate mosquitoes.

  • Because tiger mosquitoes don't fly far from their breeding places, if you and your neighbors work at eliminating breeding sites in your yards, you will have relatively few mosquitoes.

    (photo: Susan Ellis,

    The tiger mosquito

     The tiger mosquito (called "tiger" because of its black-and-white stripes) is an accidental import from Japan. This species (Aedes albopictus) was unknown in North America before 1985, when it first appeared in Texas, having arrived in a shipment of used tires. Since that year it has spread through the Southeast, its spread helped by shipments of used tires. The first appearance of the tiger mosquito in this area was in 1987, near a tire reprocessing plant in Baltimore. Washington is near the extreme end of this range of distribution (lucky us). "Older residential areas with a good deal of shade are preferred sites", reports the Maryland Department of Agriculture. Mount Pleasant fits that description, and it's no wonder that we're plagued with these mosquitoes.

    These mosquitoes are especially annoying because they feed all day long, not just at dawn and dusk. They prefer to feed close to the ground, on your bare ankles and legs. They are quick and agile, and are surpisingly good at evading slaps. And yes, they transmit diseases: West Nile here, and an outbreak of an exotic Asian disease in Italy , chikungunya, has been blamed on the arrival of tiger mosquitoes in that country.

    Controlling this pest

    This is not a problem that is going to be solved by calling in some city service to fix it. (Neighborhood-wide spraying is neither effective nor advisable.) As is so often the case, it's up to us residents to solve the problem, as best we can.

    These mosquitoes do not fly far from their breeding places -- 200 yards, it is said. Hence, if you can simply eliminate breeding spots within that range of your back yard, you'll be nearly free of this nuisance. Of course, in our neighborhoods 200 yards is a long distance, so this has to engage the cooperation of your neighbors.

    These mosquitoes are "container" mosquitoes, breeding not in open pools of water, but on the walls of small cup-like containers of water. The mosquito's eggs are deposited on the dry walls of the container, not in the water. When rain causes the water in the container to rise above the level of the eggs, the eggs hatch, releasing larvae into the water. One to a few weeks later, the larvae mature, releasing adult mosquitoes.

    This odd life cycle (said to have developed in forests) leads to the obvious means of controlling mosquito populations: eliminate all such containers of water. Containers that cannot be removed must be emptied, at least weekly, to dispose of any larvae.

    The Maryland Department of Agriculture offers this list of "tips" for controlling tiger mosquito populations.

    If we all work hard at controlling these "container" breeding sites, we can reduce the summertime plague of tiger mosquitoes.

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    page created May 25, 2008