Here at OCCHD, we have an integrated strategy in place for Oklahoma County to control mosquitoes. We constantly and continually update this strategy by using many different kinds of data.
Individuals in Oklahoma County and the U.S. in general can reduce their risk of contracting the West Nile virus by getting rid of standing water around houses and by using insect repellant. Here is a simple way to remember how to “Fight the Bite” using the 4 D’s of mosquito safety:
- DRAIN standing water on your property so mosquitoes won’t breed.
- Use insect repellant that contains DEET on your clothes.
- Stay indoors at DUSK and DAWN when mosquitoes are most prevalent.
- DRESS in long sleeves and pants and spray insect repellant on your clothes.
For more information on the West Nile virus, please see our Fight the Bite section of the website.
Unfortunately, there is no easy solution for managing mosquitoes. Countless products on the market claim to be effective and easy to use but few have appreciable value in lessening the annoyance and incidence of bites. Unlike most insects found around homes, mosquitoes are pervasive outdoor pests and there are limits to what can be done to minimize their abundance, Nonetheless, there are measures that can afford some relief.
Breeding Site Reduction
The most effective way to reduce the number of mosquitoes around homes and neighborhoods is to find and eliminate their breeding sites – standing water. Adults of some mosquito species remain near their breeding site. Others can travel long distances, even up to several miles. Because of this, problem mosquitoes may come from breeding sites some distance away.
Regardless of recent weather patterns – wet, dry, warm, or cool – there are plenty of potential places in which mosquitoes can develop. A neglected bird bath, swimming pool, or clogged rain gutter can produce hundreds of new mosquitoes in a just a few days. Trees uprooted by storms leave soil depressions that collect seepage and rainwater. Large areas of standing water, such as from swamps, sluggishly moving streams or ditches may require efforts beyond those of individual property owners.
However, there are effective steps that individuals can take to minimize mosquito breeding on their property:
- Dispose of old tires, buckets, aluminum cans, plastic sheeting or other refuse that can hold water. Empty accumulated water from trash cans, boats, wheel barrows, pet dishes, and flower pot bottoms. If possible, turn these items over when they are not in use.
- Clean debris from rain gutters and unclog obstructed downspouts. Clogged rain gutters are one of the most overlooked breeding sites for mosquitoes around homes. Remove any standing water on flat roofs or around structures. Repair leaking faucets and air conditioners that produce puddles for several days.
- Change water in bird baths and wading pools at least once a week and keep swimming pools cleaned and chlorinated. Ornamental pools can be aerated or stocked with mosquito-eating fish. Aeration / water movement helps because mosquitoes prefer quiet, non-flowing water for egg-laying and development.
- Fill or drain ditches and swampy areas, and other soil depressions and remove, drain, or fill tree holes and stumps with mortar or sealant to prevent accumulation of water. Eliminate standing water and seepage around animal watering troughs, cisterns, and septic tanks. Be sure that cistern screens are intact and that access covers fit tightly.
- Irrigate lawns and gardens carefully to prevent water from standing for several days.
Use of a mosquito larvicide may be beneficial when it is impractical to eliminate a breeding site. Larvicides are insecticides which are used to control immature mosquitoes before they have a chance to develop into biting adults. There are numerous Larvicides that are available to the public.
Adult Mosquito Control
Mosquito breeding sites are not always obvious or accessible so some nearby sources will remain undetected or impractical to treat. Also, mosquitoes can fly in from some distance away. Therefore, it may be necessary to take additional measures against adults.
Mosquitoes prefer to rest in protected sites during the day. Yards with lots of trees, shrubs, and dense vegetation or properties adjoining such areas, can have nightmarish problems. Consequently, removal of tall weeds and overgrowth is part of an integrated mosquito management program.
To further reduce intolerable levels of biting mosquitoes, insecticides can be applied to the lower limbs of shade trees, shrubs, and other shaded areas, such as under decks and along foundations.
West Nile virus is a reportable disease in Oklahoma. West Nile virus was first identified in the United States in the New York City area during the summer of 1999. Previously, this mosquito-borne virus had only been found in parts of Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. The introduction of this foreign virus was recognized by deaths of thousands of birds (particularly crows and jays) and an epidemic of encephalitis in people and horses. Over the next few years, the virus rapidly expanded its geographic range.
When should I be aware of it in Oklahoma?
From 7 years of experience tracking West Nile virus in Oklahoma, we have learned that the West Nile virus season typically consists of the months of May to November.
Who is at risk for West Nile Virus?
Persons are at greatest risk of exposure to infected mosquitoes from July through October in our state. Persons of any age can develop symptoms of disease after being bitten by an infected mosquito, but those over the age of 50 are at greater risk of developing serious illness of the nervous system. During Oklahoma’s 7 year experience with West Nile virus, 318 confirmed cases of human disease have been reported; many cases required lengthy hospital stays and 20 Oklahomans have died from this virus.
What are the recommended controls for these mosquitoes?
The Oklahoma State Department of Health advises use of insect repellants— particularly those containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus [p-menthane 3,8-diol (PMD) or IR 3535] — when enjoying outdoor activities like gardening, yard work, camping, or other leisure activities. The type of mosquitoes that transmit West Nile virus are most active during evening and early morning hours.
Are there any precautions that I can take?
It is most important to take mosquito bite precautions during that time of the day. It is also recommended to drain or treat standing water around your home with a mosquito larvacide to reduce mosquito breeding sites.You can also report any possible sources in Oklahoma County of stagnant water that are breeding mosquitoes at our web site under complaints or through our office at 425-4347, 425-4348, or 425-4319.
For questions about mosquito trapping that the OKC-County Health Department conducts, please contact Waite Colbaugh at Waite_Colbaugh@occhd.org or at 405-425-4393.