Dispelling Myths about West Nile Virus and Mosquitoes

Dispelling Myths about West Nile Virus and Mosquitoes

By: Scott McEwen

Spring is here, and with it comes beautiful wildflowers, birds returning north for summer breeding, and, of course, mosquitoes. Before long the news will inevitably relay stories about the West Nile Virus that is being found in dead crows across the country. Since the virus is relatively new, there are many misconceptions about it. Many people believe wetlands are the main culprit for West Nile Virus-carrying mosquitoes. However, healthy wetlands do not always provide the ideal habitat for mosquitoes because water conditions, water quality, and natural predators deter mosquito use of the water found in wetlands and minimize larval success if egg laying does occur. Draining wetlands will not eliminate mosquitoes. In fact, mosquito populations could actually increase because draining a wetland may destroy the mosquito’s natural predators. A much more effective method of destroying mosquito habitat is to focus on eliminating human-created habitats found around the home. These areas usually do not have wetland predators, such as aquatic insects, amphibians, fish, bats, and birds, which feed heavily on mosquitoes and their larva. With a little extra care, property owners can eliminate the breeding areas for most mosquitoes by adopting the following control methods.

  • Old tires, cans, pails, and other water-holding containers are ideal breeding sites.
  • Store them upside down or get rid of them
  • Keep culverts and drains clear of dead leaves and trash so that water will drain properly
  • Drain water from tarps or plastic sheeting covering woodpiles, boats, etc.
  • Keep eaves troughs clean of leaves and debris
  • Empty plastic wading pools at least once a week and store them inside when not in use
  • Change bird bath water weekly
  • Fill in tree rot holes and hollow stumps with sand or concrete
  • Keep boats or canoes covered or upside down


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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.