HOUSTON - To mosquitoes, humans are walking, talking, billboards for an all-you-can-eat buffet.
A visit to a mosquito research lab at Texas A&M University's entomology department provided some advice on how to keep things safe around the house during the West Nile virus season.
Texas A&M associate professor Dr. Michel Slotman, Ph.D., said the winged-pests are attracted to the bacteria in people's sweat and the carbon dioxide traveling in every breath.
"A lot of the mosquitoes people are bitten by are actually breeding in their yard or the yard of their neighbors," said Slotman, who researchers mosquitoes at the university.
Slotman said it can take less than a week for a new batch of mosquitoes to launch from a breeding site.
"The mosquitoes that we worry about in particular will feed and breed in any standing water around the house. Mosquito larvae have been found breeding in containers as small as a bottle cap," Slotman said.
Since mosquitoes don't move far from their breeding site, Slotman said people should clear clogged gutters, empty flower pots with pools of water and dump garbage can lids with pools of water. Even something as small as an empty soda can may be a prime spot for breeding.
"If it cannot be emptied it should be treated with Bti, Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, which is a mosquito larvae insecticide," Slotman said.
Another tip: keep the grass cut and bushes trimmed. Slotman said mosquitoes use these areas to rest before another feeding. Spray insecticides don't often reach them in these hidden spots.
Slotman cautions people not to rush out to coat the yard in insecticides, and those using misting systems should be careful.
"Whenever people over-apply insecticides we worry about the risk of the mosquito populations developing a resistance. We have a limited number of insecticides that work and we want to make sure they keep working," Slotman said.
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