We have all read and heard about the cases of West Nile Virus in the state. There has even been one case across the river in Forsyth County. This does not mean it is time to panic. West Nile is a threat to horses as well as humans but with a few prevention strategies you can reduce the likelihood of serious mosquito problems around your property before they become reality. Reducing mosquitoes will GREATLY reduce the potential of contracting West Nile. Before resorting to insecticide applications, consider a few other critical tasks:
Standing water is a priority item in the mosquito life cycle, as mosquitoes can not breed without it. Permanent bodies of water can cause mosquito issues that can be difficult to deal with but most of our problems in residential and barn areas are the result of things we do and place in the area. Now is the time to do a “Yard and Barn Check” to identify and eliminate places where mosquitoes will breed and grow.
Natural low-lying areas will begin to dry slowly but make sure you’re not contributing to the problem with clogged drainage ditches, tire ruts, etc. Empty buckets, tires, dishes under potted plants, the tarps over boats, and other water-collecting items need to be emptied, inverted, or discarded. Whatever it takes to remove the water.
Birdbaths make great observation posts for watching mosquito larvae and alert you to an impending invasion. Don’t rush out and start adding chemicals. Simply flush out the birdbath often. Same thing applies to outdoor pet water bowls. Livestock water troughs out in pastures can be a little tougher since they’re not always as easily flushed out.
Now is the time to get out the ladder and unclog those rain gutters. Decaying leaf material and other debris actually attract mosquitoes. Consider gutter guards to divert the debris. Also, make sure that downspouts direct the water away from the house and not simply create a big puddle along the side of the house. Make sure concrete or plastic splash blocks direct water away from the foundation.
Also, rain barrels used to collect rain runoff, need to have the openings screened. This helps keep out the junk and the mosquitoes as well.
Use a good insect repellent on yourself and your horse to reduce the potential of a mosquito bite. Wear long pants and long sleeved shirts when the potential for mosquito attacks is high. Avoid activities when mosquitoes are most active; early morning and dusk.
Discuss these ideas with your neighbors. Even though you work hard to control mosquitoes, if your neighbors don’t, then their mosquitoes might decide to pay you a visit sometime.
If you notice flu like symptoms, please consult your doctor. West Nile can mimic the flue. If horse owners have not vaccinated their horses against West Nile, please contact your veterinarian now. Horses need to be vaccinated in the spring and annually after that initial vaccination.
The potential for an increase in the mosquito population is high. Take action now to reduce the potential in your yard and surrounding area. For more information on mosquito control, contact the NC Cooperative Extension Service, Yadkin County Center at 679-2061.