Tips to prevent farms from being mosquito magnets

June 29, 2020

While COVID-19 remains in the front of everyone’s mind, the coming of mosquito season means both people and livestock are vulnerable to other serious illnesses if the farm infrastructure is not sound.

Mosquitoes can transmit a number of diseases, including dengue, malaria, yellow fever, and Zika and West Nile viruses. Farms provide breeding grounds for mosquitoes in numerous places. But plenty of measures can be taken to protect the landscape, waters, and structures from mass mosquito gatherings and the disease they bring, said David Anderson, president and CEO of Bar-Bar-A, a company that produces mosquito- and algae-free automatic livestock drinkers.

“Mosquitoes are a real threat to farms everywhere,” Anderson said. “They carry disease that can affect humans as well as animals, while also affecting a livestock operation’s bottom line. Mosquitoes multiply quickly; females lay about 100 eggs at a time. So it can be a constant battle keeping their population down without knowing the preventative tactics you can use in the many places where they’re attracted.”

Anderson offers the following tips to firm up the farm infrastructure and eliminate mosquito breeding grounds:

Use nature. Mosquitoes are annoying to people but a meal to other creatures. Thus, nature is one of the best options for mosquito control, and creating a welcome farm environment for mosquito-eating species means reducing mosquitoes on the property. “Dragonflies love to eat mosquitoes and will attack them as both nymphs and adults,” Anderson said. “If you have a pond or other body of water, you can release dragonfly nymphs into the water and let them feast on the mosquitoes. Fish are an effective weapon against mosquitoes; goldfish, minnows, and guppies eat mosquito larvae in ponds.”

Disrupt stagnant ponds and swamps. Mosquitoes need stagnant water to spawn, and ponds or swamps are breeding grounds for them. “An answer for this is installing an aeration pump or a fountain,” Anderson said. “Those can disrupt the water and make it difficult for mosquitoes to reproduce. You can also reduce the amount of vegetation, such as lily pads, piles of leaves, and cattails that are all either in the water or around it. That will reduce the places that protect mosquitoes from their predators.”

Eliminate standing water. The water in drinking troughs often becomes stagnant and, therefore, a magnet for mosquitoes. Draining and refilling troughs and water buckets frequently with fresh water is one answer. Anderson says there’s a remarkable number of places on farms to watch out for standing water. “Empty or remove containers that hold water – tires, birdbaths, clogged gutters, water troughs, and feed pans, among others,” Anderson said. “Clean the water troughs to prevent mosquito-friendly vegetation. Potholes also fill with water and should be fixed promptly.”

Maintain the air flow. “It’s vital to keep the air moving in barns and stables,” Anderson said. “Stagnant air, like stagnant water, is inviting to them. It traps moisture and scents that attract them. Use fans in barns and stables to discourage mosquitoes from sticking around.”

Set traps. Traps have an attractant to lure and either capture or kill female mosquitoes. “If you purchase traps, check the label to ensure you're setting enough traps for the size of your property,” Anderson said. “You can also create your own DIY mosquito traps. A Google search will turn up methods for making them. Just never place traps where people or animals gather.”

“You can greatly reduce the amount of mosquitoes on your farm, but it takes extra effort,” Anderson said. “But with the health of your people and livestock at risk, it’s so well worth it.”

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