Conquering Summer's Blood Suckers
How to take control of mosquitoes, ticks and chiggers
David Robson
Extension Educator, Horticulture, at the Springfield Extension Center, University of Illinois Extension.
It's the middle of summer, and once again the battle for control of your blood is on. You want it for yourself, rightly so. Other creatures want it for themselves.

Mosquitoes are the enemy. They sense your presence by your body odor and heavy concentration of carbon dioxide and home in on you. Specifically, it's only the females who are the bloodsuckers. (Guys, you can insert any joke you want in here. However, I won't make any.)

The blood is needed in order to complete the development of eggs inside the female. Without the blood meal, the female mosquito is unable to lay her eggs.

Ticks and chiggers, while not insects because they have eight legs instead of six and only two body parts instead of three, also search out blood for the same reason. And it's mainly the females as well for these arachnids.

Staying indoors for the rest of the summer is one way to avoid these creatures. Maybe it's not the most practical, but it is the safest.

You could avoid wooded and swampy areas, though sometimes it's fun to hike or camp in the woods. And it seems that even if you were in the middle of a barren field in Illinois, a female mosquito would probably find you. But at least you'd be safe from the ticks and chiggers.

Many of us thought that the early spring, followed by the devastating cold snap in early April, might have done some of the insects and ticks in, though we knew deep in our hearts that we'd only be eliminating the early ones. Nature has a way of balancing things out and would provide for later summer generations. Still, missing out on the early ones was beneficial.

Dry spring weather also helps, but there were many parts of the state that didn't go through dry weather. Rain was ideal to fl ood puddles and allow mosquito larva to develop, pupate and the mosquitoes to emerge.

Of course, in your yard, you can do lots of things to eliminate breeding sites and they're not very time consuming. However, they must be done regularly.

Anything that collects water, that isn't intended to hold water (such as a pond, swimming pool or cistern), should be emptied regularly. Gutters should drain dry after a rain, and not hold water or even damp leaves. Puddles should be filled in.

Old tires and cans should be recycled or in landfills. If you feel you must keep them for whatever reason, poke lots of holes in them so water doesn't stand. Anything that collects water, even hubcaps, can cause a problem. All it takes is a couple of days for standing water to turn into a mosquito nursery.

Make sure ditches drain. Sometimes water will stand in culverts and can lead to mosquito breeding grounds. Keeping ditches mowed helps.

If you have a small wading pool, empty it at least every other day. The same for water dishes for animals, or birdbaths.

However, you can make sure water never stands and still end up with mosquitoes. They will fl y long distances, seeking the blood meal.

Ticks and chiggers are often carried by animals into an area, whether a four-legged one, or a twolegged fl ying type. Usually, wooded areas are more likely to be home to ticks than open rural areas, but remember animals do travel, and the rule isn't absolute.

There are many insect repellents on the market, from those that contain DEET to lemon eucalyptus to mint-derivatives that you can spray to create a barrier. Some clothing is even impregnated with chemicals such as permethrin, which provides protection when out in the evenings or walking through the woods. With any product, make sure you read and follow directions on the label


For more information:

check out the University of Illinois Web site at:
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Or write to him in care of:

Illinois Country Living
P.O. Box 3787,
Springfield, IL 62708.

Telephone: (217) 782-6515