Dirt on Gardening

Biting insects can make the outdoors less than enjoyable. In the Ozarks mosquitoes and ticks come out once the weather warms up, and there’s nothing a gardener can do to prevent their arrival – even in the most beautiful of gardens.

Unfortunately mosquitoes and ticks carry diseases that can make you ill. The most common tick-borne diseases are Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia and ehrlichiosis. Mosquitoes can carry West Nile virus. If a person is bitten by one of these insects, they can be infected with the disease. Studies have found that persons over the age of 50 are more likely to be more seriously ill from these diseases.

What can a gardener do?

Ticks can be found in areas where the grass is tall or where the undergrowth is dense. Keep lawns mowed and trimmed. Do not allow areas of your yard or garden to become overgrown. If you live in a rural area where woodlands are next to your yard, consider applying a granular insect repellant annually that will repel ticks from your yard.

Pets can also bring ticks into the yard or home. Protect pets from ticks by applying a time-release insect repellant specially formulated for them.

When you are outdoors, light colored clothing is less likely to attract ticks, and long pants, long sleeves and socks will keep ticks from making contact with your skin and can be treated with insect repellant. It’s also important to check your body for ticks after you have been outside.

Mosquitoes will hatch in standing water, so any place that holds standing water can become a place where mosquitoes will become a problem.

Clogged gutters or flat roofed areas can be two places on the home where water can collect and stagnate. Leaky faucets, pet water dishes and any container left outdoors that can collect water can become a breeding ground. Birdbaths should be cleaned weekly to prevent mosquito hatches.

Ornamental ponds should be stocked with a few fish to prevent mosquito hatches. Outdoor pools and hot tubs should have a cover that does not collect water in between uses.

In addition to creating an outdoor living space that is not tick or mosquito friendly, you can also protect yourself with a variety of products. It’s important to note people may be more likely to be bit by an insect due to their individual chemistry. Products with 15 percent or more DEET or picaridin in them can protect you. Children over 2 months of age can even use repellants with 30 percent or more DEET.

For items that may be outside for long periods of time or be continually used outside, a treatment with a permethrin product will provide protection from mosquitoes and ticks even through multiple washings. There are also some commercial clothing products on the market that are supposed to keep insects away.

Questions or comments related to gardening? Contact Joleen at missourigardener@hotmail.com

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