DON’T FORGET ABOUT MOSQUITOES
It’s natural to focus on rodent, raccoon and bee problems as winter approaches, but mosquitoes are also a concern. “Depending on where you are in the country, mosquitoes can still be active in the fall,” says Michael Waldvogel, extension associate professor with the North Carolina State University Department of Entomology.
Because mosquitoes see stagnant water as breeding grounds, Waldvogel suggests walking your property after a rainstorm to find places where water pools. Then, he says, look for ways to mitigate the problem: “Is there anything you can do to improve drainage? Do you have objects lying around that collect water? It could be old cans, the bed of that pickup you plan to fix up some day, or a tarp covering a piece of equipment.”
After you’ve identified areas where water collects, Waldvogel recommends doing a “Tip & Toss.” “That’s not a description of Saturday night in a bar,” he assures, “but rather what we call ‘source reduction.’ Fill or regrade areas that collect water. Flush out bird baths and check water troughs for signs of mosquitoes. If you can’t completely empty something like a water trough and you still have mosquito activity—the larvae in the water—you can use something like ‘Mosquito Dunks,’ which contain bacteria that kill mosquito larvae (not the adults) and it is approved by the EPA for using in animal watering troughs.”
Also keep in mind that, under the right circumstances, some mosquitoes are remarkably resilient to winter cold. “Some species of mosquitoes spend the winter as adults hiding out in places that sufficiently protect them from extreme temperatures. That can include caves, animal burrows, even underground sewer systems,” says Waldvogel. “Other mosquito species pass the winter as larvae in water even if the water freezes over, and others pass the winter as eggs, which are quite durable and can survive very dry conditions and even freezing temperatures (to a point).”
are risky in the barn or farm setting. Rodenticides contain chemicals that act as anticoagulants, aggressively thinning the blood to the point of death. Toxic if inhaled or on contact, most anticoagulants are formulated as pellets or block baits that may prove appealing to cats, dogs or even horses. Because of that risk, never place baits in a horse’s stall, and, no matter where they are used, enclose them in bait boxes (storebought or homemade) that will keep out the curious (and hungry) cat, dog and random wildlife.
Another drawback of rodenticides is the risk of secondary poisoning.
“When beneficial predators like owls and hawks eat rodents that have ingested poison, they can become very weak and die,” says Alex Godbe, director of The Hungry Owl Project in Marin County, California. “Secondary poisoning is devastating to raptor populations as well as other animals like coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions, all of which help to keep rodent populations down. As their numbers decline, we only increase our pest problems.” In addition, the killing of protected species is a violation of state and federal law.
• Integrated pest management. IPM is a system of control that incorporates prevention and environmentally friendly control to keep wildlife out of structures or from damaging crops. Vineyard owners in California, Oregon and Washington State have been using barn owls for rodent control for decades. Horse owners can use similar strategies by installing barn owl nesting boxes facing outward, away from the barn, to discourage owls from entering. While research shows that owls can transmit salmonella through their feces, the advantage of their presence far outweighs the risk. In fact, according to Godbe, it’s a proven, safe and highly effective method of keeping rodent populations down. “The average barn owl family consists of four to five chicks, and those chicks have enormous appetites, eating up to six or more rodents per night. We have a lot of success stories from farmers, homeowners, orchards and stable owners who have installed owl nesting boxes.” For information on height, placement, and best locations for nesting boxes, visit The Hungry Owl Project at www.hungryowl.org.
The onset of cold weather is a powerful motivation for mice and other pests to seek safe shelter. “Animals will search for food and shelter in the fall,” says Simon, “but if you follow a good prevention program, they’ll look elsewhere for shelter---and stay out of your barn.”
About the author: Karen Elizabeth Baril writes from her home base, Pen-y-Bryn Farm in the northwest hills of Connecticut. Current residents include five horses, two dogs, a husband with a sense of humor, a chicken or two, and whatever critters might trundle through in the night.