The phrase “April showers bring May flowers” is a common rhyme almost everyone knows because it’s true.
But April showers bring more than the water needed for growth of flowers, trees, vegetables and fruits. Early spring rainfall brings pesky mosquitoes and the diseases they carry.
To combat their arrival and over-multiplication, the District 2 Public Health urges residents to examine their homes and yards for items that can hold water.
“Because that’s where mosquitoes lay their eggs,” said Dave Palmer, spokesman for District 2 Public Health. “When the water is undisturbed for a week, it allows mosquitoes to hatch.”
In fact, Aedes mosquitoes are called “container breeders” because they lay eggs in any type of container with water — even something as small as a bottle cap if it has water in it, according to a news release from District 2 Public Health. The agency serves Banks, Dawson, Forsyth, Franklin, Habersham, Hall, Hart, Lumpkin, Rabun, Stephens, Towns, Union and White counties.
By eliminating standing water, residents can reduce mosquitoes’ breeding sites and population.
The public health agency is conveying its message through its Tip ’n Toss campaign. It encourages homeowners to tip out water in flower pots, planters, children’s toys and wading pools and buckets.
For items that need to hold water such as bird baths and pet dishes, Palmer advised
dumping the water every two or three days, washing or rinsing it out and replacing it with fresh water.
“That’s ideal to stop the mosquitoes from laying eggs and hatching out,” he said.
For containers without lids or items too big to tip such as bird baths or garden pools, residents can use larvicides like mosquito dunks or torpedoes and follow the label instructions, Palmer said.
“You can put larvicides in the water and it will kill the mosquitoes without harming birds and pets,” he said.
For containers used in the spring, Palmer suggested placing them in positions that will not gather water or storing them.
“If you have items around yard you don’t use like empty flower pots, turn them over where they won’t gather water or put them in storage,” he said. “And it you store your wheelbarrow behind the shed, tip it up vertically so it won’t collect water.”
The operation also recommends residents tossing out old tires, bottles and cans.
The program also advocates cleaning out gutters, removing piles of leaves and keeping vegetation cut low to prevent landing sites for adult mosquitoes. Homeowners can also look for small bodies of water such as drainage ponds, tree stumps and tire ruts and remedy the problem.
“If you have drainage ditches on property under the driveway, make sure the water can freely flow off property,” Palmer said. “You want the drainage system ... working on the property.”
By reducing the site where mosquitoes can live and breed, it may prevent the spread of illnesses, including Zika virus, in Northeast Georgia. As of this date, no locally transmitted Zika cases have been reported in Georgia, but cases have been reported in returning travelers.
Zika virus is transmitted primarily through the bite of infected Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes — both species are found in Georgia. Some mosquitoes typically bite during the day, especially in the early morning and late afternoon hours, but some bite at night.
The Zika virus, however, is not the only illness spread by mosquitoes. Other diseases include West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, LaCrosse Encephalitis and St. Louis Encephalitis.
Since terminating mosquitoes entirely is not possible, residents must protect themselves by using EPA-registered insect repellents containing 20 percent to 30 percent DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
People can also wear light-colored clothing with long sleeves, long pants and socks to help prevent mosquito bites. Additional protection can be gained by treating clothing with permethrin by following the product instructions on proper and safe use.