Mosquitoes are buzzing around Michigan: Here’s how to protect yourself from bites, diseases

MDARD wants you to know how to safely choose, use insect repellants and insecticides

Westland officials work to fight rising mosquito population

Summer weather is finally here and that means one thing -- mosquitos are here too.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) wants people to know how to safely choose and use insect repellants and insecticides.

“One of the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent mosquitos is dumping standing water on your property at least once a week,” said Brian Verhougstraete, MDARD’s Pesticide Section Manager. “Mosquitos lay eggs in water, so eliminating standing water removes mosquitos’ ability to breed. Mosquito larvae live in water and can take only seven days after hatching from eggs to grow into flying adults, making preparation and early action essential. Now is a great time to check around for anything that collects water.”

Look for standing water in places like clogged gutters, kids’ toys, wheelbarrows, flowerpots and buckets, and bird baths.

Let’s talk about Michigan mosquitoes: Are they eating you alive? Here’s what to know

Preventing mosquito bites

Mosquitoes aren’t just obnoxious, they also carry the risk of spreading diseases to people and animals.

“Whether you use an insect repellent or insecticide, always remember to read and follow all label directions,” added Verhougstraete. “The label is the law.”

So what can you do to prevent bites? Michigan officials suggest taking the following steps:

  • When used as directed, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents with one of the active ingredients below are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women: DEET, Picaridin (known as KBR 3023 and icaridin outside the US), IR3535, Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), Para-menthane-diol (PMD), and 2-undecanone.
  • Wear light-colored, long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors. Apply insect repellent to clothing to help prevent bites.
  • Maintain window and door screening to help keep mosquitoes outside.
  • Empty water from mosquito breeding sites around the home, such as buckets, unused kiddie pools, old tires or similar sites where mosquitoes lay eggs.
  • You could also hire a mosquito control business. Mosquito control businesses are required to be licensed to apply pesticides in Michigan. A list of Michigan firms licensed to apply pesticides is available online.

Mosquito-borne illnesses (arboviruses)

Arboviruses are a group of viruses that are transmitted by mosquitoes, ticks or other arthropods. Michigan tracks the following:

Jamestown Canyon Virus (JVC)

Mosquitoes collected from Bay, Oakland and Saginaw counties tested positive for JCV this June, according to Michigan officials.

JCV sickened three Michigan residents in 2020. Most cases occur from late spring through mid-Fall. Illnesses can develop within a few days to two weeks after a bite from an infected mosquito. Most people do not become ill.

Symptoms include fever, headache and fatigue. In rare cases JVC can cause severe disease in the brain and/or spinal cord including encephalitis and meningitis.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE)

According to Michigan officials EEE is one of the most dangerous mosquito-borne diseases in the United States. It has a 33% fatality rate in people who become ill.

Most people who become infected do not develop any symptoms. However, the symptoms that people can experience include chills, fever, weakness, muscle and joint pain. The illness can last up to two weeks.

Fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months. Less than 1% of people who are infected will develop a serious neurological illness.

In 2020, there were four human EEE cases reported. There were 41 animal EEE cases reported.

West Nile virus (WNV)

In 2020, there were 32 WNV cases reported in Michigan. None have been confirmed so far in 2021.

Most people who become infected with WNV do not develop any symptoms. When people do become ill symptoms include headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash. Most people with that type of WNV recover completely.

Less than 1% of people infected will develop a serious neurologic illness. Symptoms include, headache, high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, seizures or paralysis.

Mosquitoes lay eggs in or near standing water

Mosquitoes need standing water to reproduce. That’s why you should empty, scrub or cover any items that hold water.

Standing water is often found in old tires, buckets, planters, toys, pools, birdbaths, flower pot saucers or trash containers.

Mosquitoes can complete their life cycle in about a week. The CDC recommends using an outdoor insect spray made to kill adult mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are often found in dark, humid areas.

Can’t remove standing water? Larvicides are an option

If you’re unable to remove the standing water where you live then you’ve got one other option: Larvicides.

Larvicides work by killing mosquito larvae and pupae before they grow into pesky adults. According to the CDC, if you use larvicides correctly they do not harm people, pets or the environment.

Larvicides come in liquids, tablets, bits, pellets, granules and briquettes. You use them by applying them where mosquitoes lay eggs (that means anywhere that holds standing water). That can include buckets and rain barrels, fountains, gutters or downspouts, non-chlorinated swimming pools, pool covers that collect water, tires and tree holes.

Use larvicides to treat standing water that will not be used for drinking and cannot be covered, dumped or removed.

About the Author:

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.