West Nile virus: Natural ways to get rid of mosquitoes

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- With West Nile virus on the verge of becoming an epidemic this year, local and federal health officials are warning people to do everything possible to control the mosquito population as much as possible.

The first and best thing you can do it get rid of standing water. Such pools -- be they fountains, dog bowls or puddles left behind by storms -- are breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

"It doesn't take 'em long to get started" Garden Guy Dave Owens explained.

If you can't eliminate the standing water, then you need to treat it so you can deal with the mosquitoes while they're still in the their larval stage.

A few drops of mineral oil on the water will deprive them of oxygen.

Mosquito dunks or mosquito bits also are good options.These bits and dunks contain BTI, bacillus thuringensis. While the BTI kills mosquito larvae, it is safe for pets and easy on the environment.

"The key here is to make sure you're controlling those mosquitoes in their larval form," Owens said. "Once they get up and start getting into their adult stage, they are very difficult to basically control."

Difficult, but not impossible. There are some options.

Certain plants like society garlic and lemongrass naturally deter mosquitoes, making them excellent additions to any garden. A garlic spray is also an effective mosquito barrier.

Rather than keeping mosquitoes away, you can try the opposite approach with a pheromone lure and trap.

West Nile virus was first reported in the U.S. in 1999. The first cases were in New york, but over the years, the mosquito-born disease spread across the U.S., showing up in Arizona in 2003.

“We are seeing a lot of positive mosquito pools and with the continued monsoon, we recognize that the risk for WNV infection will likely continue into the fall,” said John Kolman, director of Maricopa County Environmental Services Department, in a recent news release.

For more information on West Nile virus, public health assistance, to report green pools or file any mosquito-related complaint, call the West Nile Virus General Information and Help 602-506-0700 or visit www.maricopa.gov/wnv.