Earthworms’ Castings

Earthworms’ Castings Jean Ponzi

With Jean Ponzi

Neighbor to Neighbor Mosquito Control

Missouri is on alert for Zika virus, even though no cases have originated here yet. Our local authorities are ramping up measures to protect our region, collaborating across city, county and state lines. But even working together, they can’t do it alone.

Dealing with tiny flying bugs takes more than sending out the fogging trucks. Pesticide spray will only kill the adult mosquitoes it contacts. One day’s application won’t affect the next day’s new generation ready to hatch out of the smallest spots of standing water, that could be anywhere on anyone’s property.

Citizens bring a powerful force into the effort to prevent Zika. We can control mosquito breeding, by eliminating the standing water they need to reproduce. But mosquitoes don’t recognize property lines. The mosquito that breeds two homes away from yours could transmit a disease to your family. Like our public health agencies, we have to work together, neighbor with neighbor, to protect everyone’s health.

The good news is, our efforts can work, stopping mosquitoes where they breed, before they can fly, bite and possibly spread disease.

Talk with your neighbors about this issue. Attend or organize a neighborhood meeting. Invite your local health official, to help everyone on your block get the facts. Let good information keep you from getting caught up in worry. Fear is not a motivator! Sensible cooperation will add a kind of DIY health insurance into the mix.

Take a positive, we-can-do-it tone, and join forces to deal with standing-water situations. If an elderly or struggling neighbor needs help, offer a “Christmas in July” style cleanup for them. Encourage everyone to scout their yards to find the trouble spots. Get kids involved; they are natural detectives.

Look for water-holding rims and lids of pots and buckets. Turn the saucers under your patio-potted plants upside down. Drain unused pools or water features. Change pet and birdbath water every day or two; you’d want to do that anyway, to keep critters refreshed and healthy. Clean out gutters. Remove piles of debris – and absolutely get rid of any old tires!

Once folks find the likely breeding places, make standing-water control efficient. Pick up containers, stow them or throw them away, so that after any rain or watering, you don’t have to deal with lots of odd dumping.

To control breeding in low, wet property areas, pool your resources and get a neighborhood supply of “Mosquito Bits” from a home improvement store. This stuff is Bt, Bacillus thuringensis, a biological larvicide. It prevents mosquito larvae from developing, but doesn’t hurt birds, pets, plants or other insects. If you need to do some guerilla controlling for an inattentive neighbor, Bt bits are easy to toss into unmaintained situations.

Community health agencies can provide flyers that show typical mosquito-breeding locations and detail breeding-control measures that everyone can effectively use. Speakers may be available for neighborhood meetings.

Visit www.BiodiverseCitySTL.org for links to ecological mosquito control resources.
Letting your health officials know that your neighborhood is taking cooperative action will be welcome news. Some neighborhoods around St. Louis this summer may even be participating in data gathering about the effectiveness of person-powered mosquito control.

Neighborly efforts are a mighty grassroots force for community health!

Jean Ponzi advocates for good-sense Green, as a public educator and as host of Earthworms, the long-running interview show now podcasting weekly at Earthworms.kdhXtra.org.