An Integrated Approach to Mosquito Control

Successful mosquito management requires intervening at some point during the mosquito’s life cycle before they bite and infect a human.The best approach to controlling mosquitoes takes advantage of every life stage of a mosquito to achieve control, using a unified approach referred to as integrated pest management (IPM).

IPM is a sciencebased, commonsense approach for managing pests and vectors, such as mosquitoes. IPM uses a variety of pest management techniques that focus on pest prevention, pest reduction, and the elimination of conditions that lead to pest infestations. IPM programs also rely heavily on resident education and pest monitoring.A successful IPM strategy can use pesticides.

IPM uses a combination of ways to control mosquito populations with decisions based on surveillance, such as keeping track or count of the numbers and types of mosquitoes in an area. Surveillance is a critical component to any successful IPM program because the results from the surveillance will help determine the appropriate response to an infestation. Extensive infestations, or those where disease is present, merit a different response than will lower levels of infestations.Both CDC and EPA recognize a legitimate and compelling need for the use of chemical interventions, under certain circumstances, to control adult mosquitoes. This is especially true during periods of mosquitoborne disease transmission or when source reduction and larval control have failed or are not feasible.

A successful integrated mosquito control strategy includes several tactics to eliminate mosquitoes and their habitat. Four critical tactics include:

  1. Remove Mosquito Habitats
  2. Use Structural Barriers
  3. Control Mosquitoes at the Larval Stage
  4. Control Adult Mosquitoes

1. Remove Mosquito Habitats

An important part of mosquito control around homes is making sure that mosquitoes don't have a place to lay their eggs. Because mosquitoes need water for two stages of their life cycle, it's important to monitor standing water sources.

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screens keep out mosquitoes

2. Use Structural Barriers

Because mosquitoes frequently bite indoors, using structural barriers is an important way to reduce the incidence of bites. Examples of structural barriers include:

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3. Control Mosquitoes at the Larval Stage

larva in dipper cup

The greatest impact on mosquito populations will occur when they are concentrated, immobile and accessible. This emphasis focuses on habitat management and controlling the immature stages (egg, larva, and pupa) before the mosquitoes emerge as adults. This approach maximizes the effectiveness of pesticide application and minimizes the use from widespread pesticide application. Larvicides target larvae in the breeding habitat before they can mature into adult mosquitoes and disperse. Larvicide treatment of breeding habitats helps reduce the adult mosquito population in nearby areas.

Culex pipiens mosquitoes can use natural locations or habitats (for example tree holes and crevices in plants) and artificial containers with water to lay their eggs. They lay eggs during the day in water containing organic material (e.g., decaying leaves, algae, etc.) in containers with wide openings. They prefer darkcolored containers located in the shade. Other sites where they may lay their eggs include: old tires, buckets, toys, potted plant trays and saucers, plastic covers and even places as small as bottle caps.

backpack larvicide application

Egg and larva interventions are generally the most effective, least costly, way to control mosquitoes. However, these interventions are unlikely to be 100% effective, especially for mosquitoes like the Culex pipiens that breed in varied and scattered locations. In these cases, eliminating or treating all or even most standing water can be nearly impossible. Successful control efforts will need to supplement habitat removal with other means of control.Involvement of the community is essential to these interventions. Residents, neighbors, and landlords can all be proactive in eliminating standing water or alerting others to its presence to eliminate even the smallest sources of standing water.

There are a number of EPAregistered active ingredients used in larvicides. Choosing which larvicide to use in a given area is best done by experts and will depend on a variety of factors, including potential human or environmental risk, cost, resistance, and ease of use.

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4. Controlling Mosquitoes at the Adult Stage

Mosquito Spray Truck

Using an EPA registered pesticide is one of the fastest and best options to combat an outbreak of mosquitoborne disease being transmitted by adult mosquitoes. The pesticides registered for this use are known as adulticides. Adulticides are applied either using aerial applications by aircraft or on the ground by truckmounted sprayers.

Aerial spraying techniques can treat large areas with only small amounts of pesticide and have been used safely for more than 50 years. These aerial sprays are been fully evaluated by EPA and don’t pose risks to people or the environment when used according to the directions on the label. Mosquito adulticides are applied as ultralow volume (ULV) sprays. ULV sprayers dispense extremely small droplets. The Duet insecticide, for example, uses 80 microns or less which means hundreds of thousands of droplets could fit inside something as small as one pea. The small droplet size makes the pesticide more effective, which means less pesticide is used to better protect people and the environment.

Extensive scientific research has been conducted by academia, industry, and government agencies to identify appropriate droplet sizes for individual compounds. The equipment nozzles undergo rigorous testing before being sold to the mosquito controllers. ULV applications involve very small quantities of pesticide active ingredient in relation to the size of the area treated.

There are a number of registered adulticides to choose from. Choosing which adulticide to use in a given area is a job best done by experts and will depend on a variety of factors such as the type of mosquito, whether the mosquitoes are resistant to particular types of pesticides, weather, etc.

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