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Mosquito Control-Mosquito Extermination
Mosquitoes carry three of the major diseases that plague horses today. These include the West Nile virus, Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis, and Western Equine Encephalomyelitis. The response to infection can range from very mild symptoms like lethargy and loss of appetite all the way to coma or death. Prevention of mosquito bites, therefore, is crucial to the wellbeing of your horse. Another concern closer to home is flies on dogs, fly control will be another issue I address soon, as well as how to get rid of flies in the house.
Mosquito life cycle
There are currently 150 species of mosquitoes in the United States, and while they vary in size and demeanor, they all share the same life cycle.
Mosquitoes begin their lives in an egg. The female mosquito will deposit her eggs in standing water, singly or as a group in a floating raft. The amount of water necessary for laying eggs is surprisingly small; an egg can hatch in as little as two tablespoons of water. The exception to this rule is the Aedes mosquito, which is responsible for spreading Dengue and Yellow Fever. The female generally lays her eggs above water and waits for floodwaters to hatch them. Aedes mosquito eggs can survive long periods of time before hatching.
About a week after the eggs are laid, they emerge into larvae or “wigglers.” At this stage, no amount of mosquito repellent will harm them more than it impacts the environment. The wigglers live on the surface of the water they were hatched in and breathe through a siphon while feeding on organic matter and microorganisms. Mosquito larvae typically molt 4 times in the larval stage and grow larger each time they shed their skin. Extermination and fumigation is usually most effective when it is targeted toward mosquitoes in their larval state; not only are the wigglers vulnerable to a host of predators, they are also susceptible to pesticides designed to kill or halt their growth.
The third stage of the mosquito’s life cycle is that of a pupa. These mosquitoes are called “tumblers.” The tumbler’s life stage is one of rest; they do not eat during this time. The pupa lives in this state from one to four days, before transforming into an adult mosquito. Pest control products designed to eliminate mosquitoes in the larval state will usually be effective on tumblers as well.
The fourth and final stage of mosquito development in adulthood. When the transition is complete, the adult will break open the pupa case and crawl into a safe area to rest. The mosquito’s wings will dry from the water he has been living in since his egg was laid. His external skeleton will also harden until the time he is strong enough to fly away and live on land.
The adult mosquito’s first orders of business are to feed and to mate. Male mosquitoes do not drink blood, preferring to dine on sugary fluids like flower nectar. Females generally mate rather quickly after emerging from the pupa and then take a blood meal to provide their eggs with protein so that the circle of life can continue.
There are a variety of ways to protect your horses from mosquitoes. Best results are attained by adapting two or more principles, instead of relying upon a single step for mosquito management.
Reducing mosquito population
This step is accomplished by reducing mosquito breeding as much as possible. Adult males swarm in areas with tall grasses or weeds to signal a mate. Managing these locales is a simple way to decrease population. Another is to promptly dry up and clean any areas that rainfall collects, like tire ruts or in old tree stumps. Care should also be taken to maintain sanitary drinking water for your horses, as this is an area mosquitoes are drawn to.
Sprays and traps
An automatic mosquito spray system or premise spray can be used in horse stalls to address mosquito control. A mosquito trap is a new option to consider as well. Traps lure mosquitoes through a combination of sounds and/or lights into their fans. Once inside, mosquitoes cannot escape and are trapped in a bag or reservoir until their bodies are disposed of.
Physical barriers for horses to wear
Mosquito bites can be reduced by physically preventing the insects from coming into contact with the horse. Items to consider include leg wraps, fly sheets, and face masks. These items can be sprayed with mosquito repellent for further protection. Caution should be used when applying physical barriers to horses as they can become tangled quite easily or overheat an animal during the hot summer months.
Mosquito repellents and insecticides
There are a variety of sprays, concentrates, lotions, and gels that are approved for use on horses, including pyrethrins, citronella, eucalyptus, and DEET. Test a small amount on your horse before applying the product, as some horses are sensitive to these chemicals. A mosquito repellent or insecticide should also be reapplied after exercising your horse, as they tend to sweat off.