Where Life Really Sucks — Cities with the Worst Mosquitoes

May 25, 2014 | By | Comments (21)
Mosquito towns

Asian tiger mosquito. Give her a hand — or your thigh. Photo: glacvdorg

Life bites in Atlanta. The world sucks in Memphis. And folks in Houston are itching to leave. Why? Because Orkin, the well-known pest control company, just named these towns as three of its top 20 mosquito cities. The news has Southerners buzzing.

In fact, when it comes to mosquito havens, the South dominates the field the way the SEC dominates college football. Other Southern cities scratching their way to prominence — Washington, D.C., Raleigh-Durham, Charlotte, Nashville, Dallas-Ft.Worth, Richmond, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Huntsville, AL, and Norfolk, VA. And like the May weather, the competition is heating up!

It’s only fitting that the South be honored as Mosquito Central, given the fact that mosquitoes greatly appreciate our heat, humidity, rainfall, proximity to water, and the many months we spend outdoors. Orkin ranks Atlanta as its top mosquito city (no surprise, really, since Orkin is headquartered there). But Minneapolis-St. Paul also made the list at #18! I guess living in the “Land of a Thousand Lakes” has its down side, eh? Okey-dokey then. Ya betcha.

The Two Mosquitoes to Worry About

Mosquito towns

Southern house mosquito. Come on over for a bite! Photo: bugguide.net

Hundreds of different species of mosquitoes exist, but in the South we mainly deal with two. Like most Southerners, I grew up with the native Southern house mosquito (Culex quinquefaciatus). This little brown guy is a quick flier and buzzes around your ears, but limits its dining to the cool hours between dusk and dawn. Unfortunately, during that time, a bite can give you West Nile virus or St. Louis encephalitis. This can ruin your day.

The second is a voracious foreign invader that arrived in the South in Houston in shipments of used tires in 1985 — the evil Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus).  It gets its name from its distinctive black-and-white striped body and legs. The Asian tiger outcompetes other mosquito species and has spread to most of the U.S. Unlike the Southern house mosquito, it feeds 24/7, even in the hottest part of the day. It’s a languid flier and easy to swat, but if it nails you, you can catch West Nile virus and St. Louis encephalitis. It carries dengue fever (which, fortunately, is rare in the continental U.S.) and dog heartworm as well.

Dealing With Mosquitoes
There are three ways to keep from getting bitten my mosquitoes. The first way is to repel them (which is misleading, as I’ll explain in a moment). The second is to prevent them from breeding. The third is to kill them.

Repellents. Repellents don’t really repel mosquitoes. Instead, they keep the bugs from homing in on the chemical trail you leave when you breathe or sweat. Using them is like donning Harry Potter’s Cloak of invisibility.

Mosquito towns

Photo: SE Johnson

DEET is unquestionably the most effective mosquito repellent. Spraying clothing and exposed skin with a DEET-based product will protect you. But DEET has its downsides. It dissolves plastic. Sprays with high concentrations of DEET (like Off! Deep Woods) can be toxic to children. Other people may be allergic. Alternative products contain picardin or extracted plant oils such as rosemary oil, lemongrass oil, and citronella. From my experience, none of these work as good as DEET. And the plant oils make you smell like a Christmas tree.

The best natural repellent I know is moving air. Mosquitoes like still air. A Big Ass Fan on your porch can literally blow them away.

Mosquito towns

When nothing else will do. Photo: Big Ass Fans

Preventing Breeding. This is an easy one. Mosquitoes breed in still water. So make sure water doesn’t sit outside for any length of time in gutters, pots, and saucers.

Mosquito towns

Your back yard shouldn’t look like this. Photo: faul

Killing the Suckers. DO NOT WASTE YOUR $$$ ON BUG LIGHTS!!! They do not attract and kill mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are attracted by smell, not sight. The most you’ll accomplish is roasting some moths. Instead, use Mosquito Dunks, a product containing a beneficial bacterium that only affects mosquitoes. The dunks slowly dissolve, killing mosquito larvae in birdbaths and small ponds for 30 days.

Mosquito towns

What about mosquitoes that have already hatched out and have their bibs on? You may have noticed signs appearing in neighbor’s yards advertising whole-yard mosquito control. How does this work? Well, pest control companies come out and spray the parts of your yard mosquitoes hide in (like shrubbery and woodsy areas) with a pyrethrin-based insecticide. This doesn’t stop mosquitoes from flying in from the yard next door. But any mosquito that lands on a treated surface will die. Each treatment works for about a month.

For a lot less money, you can accomplish the same thing yourself. Buy a ready-to-use bottle of Ortho Triazicide Insect Killer that comes in a spray bottle you attach to a hose. Apply it according to label directions.

 

COMMENTS

  1. Steve Bender

    Warren,

    That’s a great idea! Everybody call in violations when you see them!

    December 8, 2014 at 2:05 pm
  2. Warren

    FAA ( Federal Aviation Administration) has proposed new regulations for mosquitoes in MN, MI, WI, FL, GA, TN and AK. They will require FAA licenses on the undersides of their wings starting in 2015.

    December 1, 2014 at 2:15 pm
  3. Jane Doe

    I live in Virginia and have bats that fly around like acrobats all night long scooping up bugs and we don’t have much of a mosquitoe problem. I’ve also travelled many places up north like Wisconsin etc.. where they are so thick they will carry you off..

    October 23, 2014 at 6:29 am
  4. Charles Charles

    One state that really should be on the list is Mississippi… There is an infestation of the killer insect. There should be a curfew for the health of the citizens there.,,

    July 2, 2014 at 9:20 pm
  5. Krystal Henson

    BTW, Grumpy, Alaska has been a state in America for over 50 years & you’ve obviously never been out of the ‘lower 48′. …And if you ever make it up here, you will not only put Anchorage on this list, you will be blown away with our gardens! My rhubarb & raspberries are looking fine, but my asparagus is a little slow getting going this year!

    May 31, 2014 at 2:08 am
  6. Lynne

    Try Canada’s North, Grumpy. World class.

    May 30, 2014 at 5:56 pm
  7. Lori

    We live in VA and the mosquito is our state bird, but I read somewhere to rub a bounce dryer sheet on exposed skin and hang it off of your belt loop, I have been able to sit on the porch for the last few evenings with no bites!!! I don’t know if it was a fluke…but I’ll keep on doing it….and it smells nice and fresh.

    May 30, 2014 at 9:29 am
  8. NC Gardener

    I did put up a bat house. Sadly for the bats, the mud-daubber wasps set up shop in it first, filling it with their pan-flute nesting sites and leaving no room for the bats.

    Set it up somewhere you can check on it and clean it out if need be. Clearly our strategy of attching it 20′ up a tree didn’t work.

    The mosquito dunks work wonderfully!!

    May 27, 2014 at 4:13 pm
  9. Jena Powell

    Stop poisoning the environment. Bats are a great way to deal with mosquitoes. Put up a bat house, and once a bat takes residence, watch the mosquito population eventually decrease to almost nothing.

    May 27, 2014 at 2:42 pm
  10. MC

    How is it even possible that Louisiana is not even on this list?! We basically live in the swamp & the mosquitoes are out of control!

    May 27, 2014 at 11:07 am
  11. Skeeter time, and the living is sucky | theology&geometry

    […] saw this on the Facebooks today and it didn’t make me feel any sort of “woo hoo we’re No. […]

    May 27, 2014 at 10:17 am
  12. ETWhitson

    Fighting off skeeters this weekend near DC and the winter has just barely left… Evil!

    May 27, 2014 at 2:33 am
  13. Sandy Neubauer

    Ah, the joys of a dry climate. We get a few mosquitos in Phoenix, but not many.

    May 26, 2014 at 10:23 pm
  14. jerry

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    May 26, 2014 at 5:41 pm
  15. Dea

    I find it hard to believe that Houston (also known as “The Bayou City” ranked behind Washington DC and Boston! Our mosquitos have been known to carry off small dogs and children. And I am definitely looking into the Big-Ass Fan. We’ve been using a mosquito control system here that uses something like a sprinkler system — it turns water into a mist and injects a repellant into it. It seems to help if you actually HAVE to be outside.

    One question: How does the insecticide you recommend — pyrethrin — affect bees and other beneficial insects?

    May 26, 2014 at 12:31 pm
  16. Beverly

    We live in Raleigh and have used a mosquito control company the last three years, three words…worth every penny (and it’s not cheap).They spray every 3 weeks for at least April through September. Three summers, 4 mosquitos! We thought maybe they weren’t bad in general the first summer until we talked to a neighbor who’s kids couldn’t play outside because they were so bad. We also have a very healthy yard, lots of lightening bugs, bees and ladybugs.

    May 26, 2014 at 10:01 am
  17. Jody

    Has anyone tried bat houses? I’ve been reading about them and am seriously considering putting one up. We live in Wilmington, NC.

    May 26, 2014 at 9:16 am
  18. Debra

    Guess they didnt see the mosquitoes in Alaska.

    May 26, 2014 at 9:10 am
  19. home, garden, life

    Here in VA where ticks bite before the snow melts, and mosquitoes are not far behind, I found that picaridin is not effective. So I am back to dressing like a hazmat worker, long pants inside tall socks or boots, and long sleeved shirts and hat, all sprayed with 40% DEET. I never spray my skin with DEET and rarely sit outdoors after May.

    May 26, 2014 at 8:38 am
  20. LitlPoot@gmail.com

    I thought the skeeters were bad here in Atlanta until I spent a few days in Saskatchewan – the suckers up there are huge and my legs were bruised (big bruises) from the bites !! Guess they’re bad everywhere, eh?

    May 25, 2014 at 3:42 pm
  21. Carolyn Choi

    Ha, we’re no. 2 here in Raleigh-Durham. The skitters are SO big here they eat the cow and then hop up on the post to ring the dinner bell for the calf.

    May 25, 2014 at 11:13 am

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