Summer is so much fun! We can be outdoors all the time for kids to play and so we can work in our gardens and mow the lawn. However, it is not fun when you find bug bites later or even feel the pain of a mosquito bite while you are outside.
This year is a good year for ticks, chiggers and mosquitoes. Bugs are part of life outdoors; we just need to do what we can to protect ourselves when we go outside to reduce the pain and itching that follows bug bites.
Mosquitoes are in the same insect order as flies, both are mostly pest species. Mosquitoes bite us, which is irritating, but they are also vectors of many different diseases. Because of the disease transmission, we need to do what we can to eliminate the problem by reducing mosquito populations and protecting ourselves when outdoors.
Mosquitoes have a complete lifecycle, which includes an egg, larvae, pupa and adult. The first three life stages of a mosquito are completed in or near bodies of water, typically standing water. Tthe adult is the only stage not in the water.
The first step in reducing mosquito populations in your yard would be to eliminate standing water from your property. Dump buckets and old tires that may have water in them and check for low areas in your landscape that may have standing water. Clean birdbaths and pools weekly or use larval control disks in those areas to kill the mosquito larvae and not harm other animals. Mosquito dunks can be found at many nursery and garden centers.
Ticks are very problematic this year. Ticks live in grassy areas near the ground level clinging to grass and other plant materials. They wait for a person or animal to walk by so they can grab onto that animal as it moves by.
Ticks are common in wooded areas or in tall grass. If outdoors in areas where ticks are commonly found, wear light-colored, long-sleeved shirts and long pants and closed toe shoes to reduce exposed areas where ticks can attach to your skin.
Be sure to check yourself when you go back indoors to find ticks before they attach. Also, be sure to treat your cats and dogs with flea repellants to keep the ticks off your pets and out of your home.
Chiggers are the immature form of the common red harvest mite. Chiggers puncture our skin with their mouthparts to inject salivary fluid that breaks down cells to drink the liquefied tissue. The enzymes that are found in their salivary fluid causes an itchy reaction. Chiggers prefer to feed in locations that are constricted such as sock tops or waistbands.
Chiggers can be found in your yard or anywhere with tall grass and weeds. The best way to keep from being bitten by chiggers would be to avoid sitting in grass. If you can, lay down a blanket or sit in a chair. Also, it is best to wear long sleeved shirts and pants with socks and boots to eliminate locations where chiggers can get to our skin. If you find a large population of chiggers in your own lawn, a liquid treatment of bifenthrin will reduce chiggers 75-95% for several weeks, according to UNL entomologist emeritus Fred Baxendale.
For all of these pests, protect yourself when you go outside. You can’t change the outside. Sprays are only effective for a few days and not for long-term control of mosquitoes or ticks. Make sure that anytime you are outside in the summer months, you use insect repellents containing DEET to deter all these pests from feeding on you.
Nicole Stoner is the Gage County Horticulture Extension Educator. She can be contacted at 402-223-1384, email@example.com, or by visiting the Gage County Extension website at www.gage.unl.edu. Like her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/NicoleStonerHorticulture, or follow her on Twitter @Nikki_Stoner.