Beat the biters at their own game

By Angela M. Tucker

Smart landscape design and consistent maintenance will go a long way toward helping your clients fight the biters.

As a landscape contractor, you know that the way you manage and maintain a client’s landscape can make that space feel sophisticated and elegant, fun and inviting, or both. But even the most entrancing back yard is less so when it’s full of clouds of biting, buzzing skeeters.

Mosquitoes are more than a mere nuisance for property owners and your crews; they’re vectors for serious diseases such as West Nile and malaria. But you can make a huge difference in your clients’ enjoyment of their summer yards with a few small tweaks.

First, it’s critical to understand the environmental factors that contribute to increased mosquito populations. Number one is standing water; the females use it as a breeding pool to lay their eggs. If water remains stagnant for more than a few days, the eggs will hatch and the larvae will develop. The more debris in the water the better; it’s a food source for the larvae.

Even a minuscule amount of standing water can contribute to a rising mosquito population. Some species can breed in as little water as is typically found in an upturned soda bottle cap.

Some of the features in a landscape make it easier for mosquitoes to breed. Ponds, fountains and other water features are attractive additions to yards but require maintenance to keep them from becoming insect incubators. Broken or neglected water features should be drained and replaced or covered.

Certain soil types or natural depressions in terrain can cause water to pool more easily. Being aware of this can help you when designing projects so you don’t build in a tendency to collect water.

During mosquito season, instruct your crews to look during every visit for areas where water is pooled or may pool on your clients’ properties. Have them check patio furniture, planters and drainage areas that may have become blocked.

If they find containers with standing water in them, tell them to dump them out, then inform the client that they should be scraped clean to dislodge any eggs that might still be attached to the sides.

Leave your clients with a handout that suggests overturning empty planters and checking screens often for gaps or holes.

If you offer spraying for mosquito control, suggest that service to your client or recommend a provider that does.

Your workers need protection too. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants or clothing that’s pretreated with repellent before working outdoors. Provide plenty of repellent and insist they wear it.

Smart landscape design and consistent maintenance will go a long way toward helping your clients fight the biters.

Angela M. Tucker, Ph.D., B.C.E. is an expert in entomology and manager of technical services for Terminix, Memphis, Tennessee, a commercial pest management provider. She provides technical support for a variety of Terminix and ServiceMaster business units.