Fight back: take a bite out of mosquitoes with alternatives

From tiki torches to citronella candles to wearing insect repellent to spraying insecticide on plants, homeowners have different ways of dealing with mosquitoes.

Many know that standing water around vegetation serves as a breeding ground for mosquitoes, and with all the rainfall, there’s bound to be a few of those spots around the neighborhoods.

Tom Vallatini of Lihu‘e said he makes sure the mosquitoes don’t get the opportunity to breed in his yard.

“I make sure (the ground) is level so there are no pockets to hold water in,” he said. “I make sure there are no buckets to collect the water around the house.”

Joan Badua of Hanama‘ulu said that, to keep mosquitoes flying around her house at a minimum, she planted special plants.

“I have citronella plants around the house,” she said. “It’s just easier (than spraying) that way, or putting out mosquito punks. For the most part, we try to keep everything dry. But when we have people over, we usually burn the candles.”

Professionally, John Stem of Terminix International in Lihu‘e said there isn’t much that can be done to completely get rid of the mosquitoes.

“The No. 1 thing to do is to check the yard,” Stem said. “Make sure there is no standing water by the door, because that’s what (the homeowner) can control. (The homeowner) can spray vegetation with insecticide, so when the mosquito lands on the plant, it dies.”

The mosquito insecticides, Stem said, could be found in any store with a basic gardening department.

“The mosquitoes get their nutrients from the plants. Apply the insecticide under the leaves. But the (chemicals) should be specifically labeled for mosquito control,” he said.

“But the most effective way to keep them off is to apply insect repellent on the body.”

Other than applying insect repellent to the body or spraying insecticide on plants, small ponds with special plants and fish can feasibly stop mosquitoes before they even have a chance to grow.

“In theory,” Stem said, “the mosquitoes lay their eggs in the water, and when the eggs hatch, they become larvae. The fish in the pond then eat the larvae.

That stops the process to control the mosquito-larvae stage.”

Stem added that it’s not just having the pond, it’s the fish in the pond that do the trick.

“If you don’t have the fish in the pond (to eat the larvae), then you just have a breeding ground,” he said.

Starla Landon from the Garden Ponds Nursery in Kilauea specializes in these ponds.

“Basically, these are waterscape gardens that work as eco-systems for mosquito control,” she said. “You never feed the fish because they feed off of the larvae and a little bit of the environment in the bowl.”

Like Stem, Landon said it is important to have the fish in the container. It’s not just putting out a bucket or pot outside the home. There are certain things that must be in the pot to make the eco-system work.

“There are two kinds of things that must be in the pot. One of them is plant. It could be either tape grass or hornwort. Then, the platies,” she said.

Tape grass and hornwort are usually found in water, and works as an oxygenater for the pot. The platies are tropical fish that eat the larvae.

“Those are the two things that need to be in the pot, but once that’s done, fountains and flowers can be added to the pot to make it nicer,” she said.

“The flowers give fragrance and color, and it’s a huge success when it comes to mosquitoes. It’s a real easy way to deal with the population, using the pots, more than spraying Off! or any other pesticide.”

Lanaly Cabalo, lifestyle writer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 237) or lcabalo@kauaipubco.com.

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