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Protecting your property from West Nile

Libby and DaveWe live on a small farm just south of Houston, Texas.  Texas is having its worst year ever for West Nile, and we naturally have been concerned.  Carried by infected mosquitoes, West Nile is transmitted from mosquitos to certain types of birds, and then on to humans and some types of livestock.

For humans, the symptoms of West Nile may be unnoticeable.  Or, the infection may be very serious indeed.  West Nile has been known to cause death, and is to be taken very seriously.

Although the majority of humans who contract West Nile will have no symptoms at all, about 20% will become seriously ill.  Symptoms are flu-like, and include fever, muscle or joint pain, headache, nausea, vomiting, fever, fatigue, and diarrhea.  More severe cases may cause West Nile Meningitis, which could lead to paralysis, coma, and death.

You can imagine Dave’s and my concern when we learned that several cases of West Nile have been found in our community.  Knowing that mosquitoes breed in bodies of standing water, we became even more vigilant about routinely emptying birdbaths and other outside water containers.

Standing water, such as that which is present on the water’s edge of this pond, can attract mosquitoes. 

Our large duck pond was of particular concern, until we discovered that the many small fish and minnows eat whatever mosquito larvae are present in the pond.

Duck pond
Fortunately, bigger bodies of water such as this duck pond, support a large minnow population, which eat any mosquito larvae that are present. 

The dogs’ outside water bowl is emptied every evening, and then re-filled in the morning.  Leaf litter and standing water are cleared out, and the cattle water trough that Dave has appropriated as his personal cooling tank is routinely emptied.  On our outside patio, we’re on the alert for poorly draining plant pots…Dave found a plant last week with a 2-inch pool of water on the surface.

Being redheads, Dave and I both long been very careful about protecting ourselves from the sun.  It turns out that the long sleeved shirts, hats, and long pants that we’ve used to prevent sunburn are also mostly good for protecting against mosquitoes.  We also stay inside during mosquito peak biting times (dawn and early evening).  These measures have mostly kept us mosquito-free this season, although I (Libby) did experience a very bad mosquito attack when I decided to spend several hours in the hammock one afternoon.

Mosquitoes are heaviest at dawn and dusk, so plan your outdoor activity (such as reading in a hammock) in the early afternoon. 

Fortunately, this little escapade yielded nothing more than 50-60 mosquito bites (mostly on my head) and I didn’t come down with anything more serious than embarrassment.

Weather here in our area of Texas is getting a little cooler, and our natural tendency is to open the windows and doors and ventilate.  During the summer months, we hover inside under air conditioning (it’s the only way to survive in the 100-degree-plus summertime temperatures), but in the fall, we enjoy the outdoor breezes and cooler temperatures.  Dave and I are spending a few hours this next weekend, repairing window screens (those darn cats), and checking to be sure that our house is ready for fall.

Even if West Nile’s not in your community, it still makes sense to behave sensibly outdoors, wearing appropriate attire to protect against mosquito bites.  And take the time to repair window screens and clean out water containers and other places where mosquitoes could potentially breed.  Do what you can to make mosquitoes unwelcome on your property.

Do what you can to make your property inhospitable to mosquitoes, allowing you to comfortably enjoy the outdoors.

Do you have any techniques or tips for controlling mosquito infestations on your own property?  Care to share something that has worked for you?

libby and dave
10/5/2012 4:18:06 PM

Thanks Dave! Yes, it is a wonderful pond. Our friends children love to come and canoe on it, and it's just small enough that we can keep an eye on them. We are coming out of a drought, although we still aren't up to our average rainfall. Last year at this time, the pond was almost completely dry, and we lost many of our big fish. It was sad to see 4-foot long koi and other prized fish dying. Hopefully you'll come out of your drought soon up in Nebraska.

nebraska dave
9/30/2012 12:52:32 PM

Libby and Dave, welcome to the GRIT blogging community. We here in Nebraska have a few West Nile cases every year but nothing like what Texas had this year. The weather was so hot and dry that bugs of any kind were not an issue. My 400 gallon horse tank used for collecting rain water for garden watering had a small electric fountain to keep the water from getting stagnate. Your precautions are right on target. Standing water is the main culprit for mosquitoes. That's a really nice looking duck pond. Your area looks so nice and green. Nebraska was the victim of no rain during July and for two months no grass grew unless a lot of water was dumped on the lawn. I chose not to water and pay the utility company hundreds of dollars. Now I'm faced with reseeding a few spots. Of course, the crab grass seemed to thrive on the hot dry weather. Have a great mosquito free day.