Once bitten

Published 7:51 pm Thursday, July 21, 2011

There's a lot homeowners can do to keep mosquitos and ticks out of their yard.

You can take steps to help keep mosquitoes and ticks out of your yard

Mosquito and tick bites pack more than just persistent itchiness; they can carry serious diseases, such as West Nile and Lyme. So it is important to ensure these insects cannot make themselves at home in your backyard.

Many homeowners might be surprised at just how much they can do to prevent their yards from becoming breeding grounds for mosquitoes and ticks.

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Mary Crawford, the owner of the Mosquito Squad in Norfolk, which treats homes against mosquitoes and ticks, said there have been more mosquitoes than usual buzzing around Hampton Roads during the past couple of weeks.

“Right now, we have a huge influx of mosquitoes,” she said.

Crawford said some species of mosquitoes are in the middle of their annual hatch cycles, which means an increase in the populations.

As a result, she said, there have been an unusual number of requests from homeowners for company to come out and treat their yards.

Crawford said people can take prevention into their own hands by following what they call the 5 T’s, which stand for tip, toss, turn, tarp and treat.

The first T – tip – refers to overturning anything that collects standing water, including plant saucers and dog bowls.

Mosquito eggs require water in order to hatch, and standing water is the perfect breeding ground. Crawford said about 1,500 eggs can be laid at one time in the amount of water that can fit in a bottle cap.

After tipping any water, homeowners should toss any and all lawn debris, such as dead leaves and grass clippings.

This should be done to avoid providing a damp area for mosquito eggs to grow. Crawford said workers find mosquito eggs in materials collected in gutters.

In line with tossing yard trash, you should also turn over large yard items that can gather water, such as sandboxes and plastic toys.

The fourth T refers to removing tarps from your yard. People often have tarps over wood or other things in their yards, but during the summer, those tarps should be put away, if possible.

“A lot of times, a little pool of water will form in them,” she said.

The final T — treatment — refers to treating your yard to get rid of the insects.

Crawford suggests getting a barrier spray to kill off the mosquitoes in your yard. The spray is applied to the bottom of leaves and then attracts mosquitoes and poisons them when they try to feed on it.

She said the Mosquito Squad’s spray eliminates 85 to 95 percent of the mosquitoes in a yard.

Many of the same techniques to prevent increased in mosquito populations can be used to keep ticks at bay, as well.

However, Crawford said another way to control ticks is by clearing and cleaning their favorite hiding places in your yard, including wood piles and tall grasses.

“If you clean up those areas, you can get rid of some of the ticks,” she said.

She recommends homeowners purchase tick tubes if they have an overwhelming tick problem that isn’t curbed by barrier spray.

The tubes are about the size of a paper towel roll and have cotton treated with barrier spray attached to them. The cotton attracts field mice, which are a common host for tick nymphs. The nymphs are killed when the mice nuzzle up to the cotton.