Op-Ed: Mosquitoes taking over your California backyard? Here's how you can fight back

Op-Ed: Mosquitoes taking over your California backyard? Here's how you can fight back (via @latimesopinion)

9/25/2021 1:33:00 PM

Op-Ed: Mosquitoes taking over your California backyard? Here's how you can fight back (via latimesopinion)

Irrigated landscaping is one big mosquito breeding ground. Replace it with drought-tolerant native plants that aren't so thirsty.

AdvertisementCalifornia’s Mediterranean climate, with its hot, dry summers, should be arid enough to eliminate the standing water that serves as a breeding ground for mosquitoes. But even in a Southern California that is increasingly dry due to climate change, mosquitoes exploit a human-created niche in our local ecosystems: irrigated landscapes.

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Aedeshave a talent for finding and using small bodies of water for reproduction. Even a bottle cap filled with water will do.Goldberg: L.A. area’s mosquito dilemma: Use pesticides or suffer through the summer plagueIf your choice is between using insecticides or being bitten by mosquitoes, what’s the right thing to do?

Of course, mosquitoes can be controlled through the widespread use of chemicals. In the U.S., DDT was commonly used from the 1940s through the 1960s to control agricultural pests and mosquitoes. But DDT is a broad-spectrum insecticide that led to a series of cascading problems, including a decline in bald eagle and peregrine falcon populations, and it was banned in 1972. headtopics.com

In an attempt to control the Mediterranean fruit fly, helicopter flyovers regularly dotted the nighttime sky in the 1990s as neighborhoods were sprayed with the pesticide malathion to kill the medfly. To counter West Nile virus in 2004, officials applied malathion in a more limited and targeted fashion in California.

But tools other than pesticides are available to combat insect pests. Scientists are developing safer, more effective interventions to control insect populations by changing their breeding behavior. For instance, sterile medflies are released to help control reproduction. Similar techniques are in development to deal with ever-expanding mosquito populations.

Homeowners and apartment dwellers already have the ability to help keep mosquito populations in check. For their gardens, they can choose drought-tolerant native plants that require less irrigation, particularly in the summer. Once established, some native plants, such as manzanitas and sages, don’t need to be watered.

Gardeners can also take to heart the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District’seducational sloganto remind us to eliminate standing water in our yards: Tip, Toss and Take Action. Tip out any standing water, toss out unneeded containers that collect water and take action by sharing mosquito prevention tips with others. headtopics.com

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Southern Californians have also gotten used to semitropical landscaping that requires irrigation, which has helped mosquitoes thrive. When making large-scale landscape decisions, people should avoid water-hungry turf grass and choose native flora since it needs less water and leads to fewer mosquitoes.

AdvertisementIt also provides other benefits. Native vegetation supports biodiversity by encouraging native insects that feed birds and other creatures. Nonnative species — such as jacaranda, most palm trees and bougainvillea — don’t do this as well.In California, oak trees and shrubs like buckwheat and

Ceanothus(also known as California lilac) flourish. By planting these and other native species, people can have a positive effect on the environment by creating a cooling habitat that uses less water. An added benefit: It will reduce the need for summertime irrigation that promotes mosquito reproduction.

Read more: Los Angeles Times »