West Nile precautions

With the news that mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus have been found in 32 towns, including Shelton, residents may want to take some added precautions against the biting pests. August and September are the time of year when people are at the greatest risk of illness associated with West Nile, according to the state Mosquito Management Program.

There are several ways homeowners can minimize the number of biting mosquitoes in their yards, according to the state management program. One of the easiest and surest ways to manage mosquitoes around the home is to eliminate standing water where mosquitoes can lay eggs.

Mosquitoes need at least 7-10 days in water to fully develop. Some common sources of mosquitoes around the home are:

• Artificial containers that hold water (e.g., pails, paint cans, discarded tires)

• Open cesspools or septic tanks

• Boat or pool covers or tarps that collect rain water

• Unmaintained bird baths or wading pools

• Storm sewer catch basins, rain barrels and clogged roof gutters

• Rot holes in trees and stumps

Practice good sanitation around the home.

Homeowners should properly dispose of or recycle trash which can hold rainwater. Make it a practice to flush bird baths and wading pools weekly. Swimming pool filtering systems should be maintained and in good working order. Rotten stumps and tree holes can be filled with sand. Discarded tires should be disposed of properly, holes (0.5 inches or larger) can be drilled in the bottom of the tires to drain rainwater or the tires can be stacked and covered to prevent rainwater from entering. Lawns and gardens should be watered minimally to prevent puddling and to conserve water.

There are also ways homeowners can minimize the annoyance caused by adult mosquitoes. Mosquitoes prefer to rest in shady, calm areas and will avoid more open sunny, breezy areas. Mowing tall grass will reduce places where mosquitoes can rest. Mosquitoes are most active around dawn and dusk although some, such as the common saltmarsh mosquito, may be active throughout the day or may be more active during cloudy, humid weather. Simply avoiding outdoor activity during these peak mosquito times can minimize contact with mosquitoes.

To reduce the chance of being bitten when outside, wear protective clothing such as long sleeves, long pants and head cover. Light-colored, loose-fitting clothing is preferable because dark clothing radiates more heat and attracts more mosquitoes. Insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus can be used by most people and are often effective for varying lengths of time.

Homeowners may also consider spraying pesticides labeled for mosquito control to shade trees, hedges and shrubs adjacent to foundations, fences and stone walls where adult mosquitoes are most likely to light. There are several over-the-counter aerosol sprays that homeowners can use to control mosquitoes. Always read and follow the label.

To reduce mosquito infestations in the house, maintain screens over doors and windows. A porch or deck also can be enclosed with screening. Outside light use should be reduced and yellow light bulbs used when possible.