DON’T FOR­GET ABOUT MOSQUITOES

EQUUS - - Eq Tack & Gear -

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.

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