Don't let concern about mosquitoes and the diseases they can spread lead you to use pesticides incorrectly, caution experts with the LSU AgCenter.
“Some people think that if a little is good, then a lot will be better, but that's not true in this case,” says LSU AgCenter pesticide safety specialist Dr. Mary Grodner. “Using pesticides or mosquito repellents incorrectly can do more harm than good.”
Grodner and LSU AgCenter entomologist Dr. Jack Baldwin say you should always read label directions and follow them carefully when using a mosquito repellent or pesticide.
“There are insecticides people can use to try to keep down the mosquito population in their yards,” Baldwin advises. “But if they decide to go that route, they need to make sure they are using the right material and applying it at the right rate. The only way to do that is to carefully follow the label directions.”
Grodner echoes that sentiment, explaining pesticide labels provide those directions for a reason. “The ‘label is the law’ for a good reason,” the LSU AgCenter pesticide safety expert explains. “The label directions are the safest and most effective guidelines for using that specific pesticide.
“By following the label, you will do a better job of controlling pests, and you will know you are doing it safely and legally.”
Although all sorts of products claim to help reduce the mosquito population or protect you, the experts say one of the easiest and least expensive methods to employ in protecting yourself from bites is to use a mosquito repellent with DEET each time you go outside.
“Use the repellent according to the directions provided by the manufacturer on the label,” Grodner says. “That's the safest and most effective way.”
Baldwin adds some other precautions — warning that frequent, saturated use of repellents is not necessary for them to be effective and advising against such misuse.
“Apply a repellent lightly on an as-needed basis according to its label instructions,” Baldwin says, adding, “Pay special attention to restrictions concerning use on small children, and remember most repellents are not labeled for use on infants.”
As for the variety of other products on the market that claim to protect you from mosquitoes, the experts stress those generally are meant to reduce the mosquito population in an area — and may not have any effect on keeping the insects from biting you.
“Almost everyone has seen the citronella candles, and they can be effective at keeping mosquitoes away from a closed, relatively small environment,” Baldwin says, adding, however, “But the problem is that they aren't really very effective in the wide open outdoors.”
Of the newer high-tech “mosquito magnet” products being marketed now, Baldwin says the evidence on their effectiveness is still being gathered and that the cost of the products can range upward from several hundred dollars each.
“Right now, there isn't any independent research to prove these devices actually result in fewer mosquito bites,” he says, adding that the products use a carbon dioxide generator and other elements to attract and trap mosquitoes.
The same sort of idea applies to older “bug zapper” equipment. They may remove some of the bugs from an area, but that won't necessarily reduce the number of mosquito bites a person could suffer, the LSU AgCenter experts say.
“It's still pretty clear that wearing a repellent is the most effective way to keep yourself from being bitten,” Baldwin says.
Grodner and Baldwin also provide these additional tips about handling pesticides safely and using them properly:
- Always choose a pesticide that is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency for your intended use.
- Do not just assume it is okay to use a pesticide anywhere or to kill any pest. Make sure your intended uses are stated on the label.
- Never put a pesticide in an unlabeled container, especially a soft drink bottle! That is illegal and may cause the death of a small child or someone else who mistakes a pesticide for a beverage.
- If someone offers to sell you a pesticide that is not in a fully labeled container, do not buy it regardless of claims made by the seller. This product is illegal and may be toxic. And it more-than-likely is not formulated for home use.
- If someone offers to spray around your home, ask to see certification and a license. They must be certified and licensed to spray homes and home grounds legally. If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is illegal!
For more information on mosquito-borne diseases, pesticide safety and a variety of other issues, visit the LSU AgCenter's Website at www.lsuagcenter.com.
Tom Merrill writes for the LSU AgCenter.