Americans rely on a food supply that is abundant, affordable and safe. These are guarantees provided by an efficient network of more than 2 million farms, and where 97 percent of these farms which are operated by families.
Protecting America’s farmland from mosquito-borne disease is crucial to ensuring the continuity of the food chain. Mosquitoes are more than a nuisance on the farm; they are a threat to the very health and livelihood of it.
Not only do mosquitoes carry dangerous diseases, but they also don’t discriminate. Mosquitos don’t care if you’re a cow, horse, goat, human or any other warm-blooded creature that exhales carbon dioxide. Everyone is a potential target on what are traditionally fertile grounds for these pesky creatures.
THE IMPORTANCE OF FARM MOSQUITO CONTROL
Mosquito-borne disease is a huge threat to livestock across the country. Agriculture operations rely on clean and healthy animals to be able to provide the safe and delicious food that Americans count on day in and day out.
Livestock mosquito control is so important because if your animals are constantly badgered by mosquitoes then they will not feed properly. It can be common for cows and goats to provide less milk while cattle, sheep and poultry may suffer weight loss. Mosquitoes transmit viruses that cause encephalitis in horses and myxomatosis in rabbits.
It’s impossible for agriculture to occur without water, and the same is true for mosquitoes. Today’s modern farming operations, filled with acres of land, machinery, buildings and vehicles, tend to also create the perfect micro-environments for mosquitoes can survive and breed.
The first step to avoiding the scourge is knowing that mosquitoes are a potential problem. Luckily there are ways that today’s farming operations can effectively mitigate mosquito risk.
Mosquito Control For The Farm
- Ensure the prevention or elimination of wastewater that has been standing for more than four days.
- Keep the property irrigated so that there is no surface water standing for more than four days.
- Properly maintain the area around ponds, ditches and shallow wetlands.
As we have mentioned in other blogs, having any standing body of water is the perfect spawning ground for mosquitoes. These pesky bugs thrive in ponds, ditches, fields and containers. Old tires, birdbaths, clogged gutters, garbage can lids and even pet food bowls can also prove to be a mosquito breeding grounds if they are not properly flushed out. If you farm has any permanent natural bodies of water, such as ponds or wetlands, you might be better shape because these don’t always represent good environments for mosquitoes due to the presence of predatory insects and fish. On the other hand, very weedy and shallow waterways that receive a fair amount of excess runoff from fertilizers or manure can be havens for mosquitoes. You will want to prevent such runoff through proper drainage, minimal fertilizer use, and creating buffer zones between open fields and wetlands. By controlling weeds, natural predators can more effectively hunt mosquitoes. Natural streams also tend to create stagnant pools as they weave their way through your property.
Here some ways to keep Mother Nature from getting in the way of good mosquito control:
- Ensure that rushes and cattails are thinned and that old leaves are not piling up.
- If shallow wetlands are a problem, mow them down during the dry season.
- If a stream is forming stagnant pools, dig small ditches to connect the stream to the pools.
If you have a coastal farms you must also be vigilant to avoid any standing water that is created by tides or rain. This problem can be managed by digging ditches that assist in drainage once the rain ceases or tide falls. In some cases a levee with a tide gate will keep out the high tide salt water while fresh water flows out when the tide recedes. Here are some additional considerations when creating a farm mosquito control plan:
Maintain Impoundments: Impounded water is a great place for mosquitoes to breed, unless the proper steps are taken to maintain them. Properly grade the sides and bottom, prevent overgrown vegetation and stock it with insect-eating fish.
Drain Field Ditches: Any ditch that could end up holding water for more than four days is a potential mosquito breeding ground. Try plowing in any field ditches following irrigation.
Fix Structures: A leaky head gate or turnout structures could potentially create pools of stagnant water. When constructing or renovating these buildings, make sure that water cannot escape around or under the structures. Any gate must fit well enough that water does not escape.
Keep Up Road Conditions: Even the smallest pothole or road rut can be welcoming to mosquitoes during warmer weather. These waters contain few to no predators and may be on roads that don’t often seen traffic. Also keep roadside drainage areas and ditches clear of debris or blockage. Storm water should be effectively drained to prevent stagnation.
Use Different Lighting: There are multiple sources of light on any farm. Since mosquitoes are attracted to light, this potential liability can be turned into an advantage. Beyond dimming or turning off lights, there are specific types of lights that can be used to help ward off mosquitoes. Yellow incandescent or fluorescent lights in the barn or stable provide a much less attractive target for mosquitoes.
Watch for Tree Holes: The western tree hole mosquito relies on rain water that accumulates in tree holes to develop its larvae. Tree holes can be found in old orchards as well as landscape and wild trees. To avoid disturbing potential bird habitat in the summer months, try drilling a simple hole at the bottom of the tree hole.
Set Traps: Let’s face it: Some farms are large and it isn’t always easy to spot every single pool of stagnant water. There may be instances where mosquitoes are breeding on the property. Keep the ones that manage to live at bay by setting traps.
Utilize Return Flow Systems: Ensuring that wastewater is reused is not just more efficient and economical, it also helps to reduce the mosquito population. Excess water pools in a sump at the lowest point of the field. A low-lift pump then moves the water into a pipeline that delivers it back into the irrigation system. By reusing the wastewater any fertilizer is reused, reducing the need for more. These are just a few irrigation techniques for controlling mosquitoes. Ensuring the surrounding farmland and associated buildings are not laying out the welcome mat for mosquitoes is only half the battle. Where there are animals, there may be mosquitoes. Fortunately, there are animal-specific techniques that can help keep the bloodsuckers at bay.
PROTECT YOURSELF FROM MOSQUITOES