This time of year many backyards across the state are facing an unwelcome guest – the pesky mosquito. Summertime is peak season for mosquitoes in North Carolina.
“Backyard populations of mosquitoes are building now,” said Dr. Michael Reiskind, entomologist at N.C. State University. “Usually peak mosquito season falls in August or September, but it’s not unusual to see them out in late October. “While most mosquitoes don’t carry diseases, they can still be a problem for homeowners trying to enjoy their own backyards.”
North Carolina is home to 61 species of mosquitoes, but most suburban neighborhoods are populated by three or four species.
An increasing number of homeowners are choosing to hire pesticide companies to spray their yards for mosquito control. “Mosquito spraying seems to cut down on the number of mosquitoes in a backyard,” Reiskind said. “It’s a complaint-driven business, most people call when they are experiencing a problem and looking for solutions. Some have contracts that bring them out every 21 days and others will come back out if you start getting bit. Spraying could depress the mosquito population so you can enjoy your backyard.”
Three-county survey of mosquito sprayers being funded by PETF
Reiskind, along with researchers from East Carolina, Western Carolina and N.C. State Universities are sending out a research survey this year to better understand mosquito awareness and use of controls such as mosquito spraying. Surveys will be delivered in Henderson, Pitt and Wake counties. “We are also looking at use among three different socioeconomic areas, poor, middle income and wealthy, and in rural and suburban areas,” Reiskind said. “This survey is for us to get an idea as to what is going on at a population level. Right now, we really don’t know how many people spray for mosquitoes. The state and county work to control mosquitoes in rural areas, such as large populations in salt marshes, but they don’t do much for our backyards.”
This survey is being funded by a Pesticide Environmental Trust Fund grant. This fund receives money from environmental assessment fee for pesticide brands registered with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
NCDA&CS regulates and licenses mosquito sprayers.
“Spraying for mosquitoes falls under a pesticide license and a structural pest control license,” said Renee Woody, licensing, certification and outreach manager for the Pesticides and Structural Pest Control Division . “When hiring someone to spray your property, you need to make sure you are hiring the right person based on your yard’s needs.”
Structural pest control license holders, with a household pest phase endorsement, can treat structures such as houses, decks, sheds and garages. This license also allows them to treat for mosquitoes in the landscape, parking lots, dumpsters on a property with a structure. Pesticides license holders with a public health endorsement can spray the yard and vegetation that is away from a structure. “The type of license your pest-control company needs depends on the intended target site of treatment,” Woody said. “If you want your deck and shrubbery right up against your house sprayed, then you need someone with a structural pest control licenses. If you want a yard or landscape sprayed, then you need a pesticides license holder. A structural pest control license holder is allowed to apply pesticides in landscaping areas, such as yards provided a structure is located on the property.”
Landscapers with an Ornamental and Turf license are not allowed to spray for mosquito control.
Obtaining a pesticide license requires passing the Pesticide Core exam and a Public Health category exam. A structural pest control license requires several prerequisites including two years of experience and passing the house-hold pest phase license exam.
“We encourage homeowners to always look for a company that is licensed and insured, get two estimates and check references,” said Woody. “Also, if you have a problem with a pest control company you hired, call the Department of Agriculture, we address all complaints.” The phone number for the Pesticides and Structural Pest Control Division is 919-733-3556.
There are other ways to control mosquitoes in your yard as well. Check out this checklist for ways to reduce small-water sources and other environments that harbor unwelcome pests.