After more than a year spent indoors as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, American homeowners are looking for a reprieve outdoors as temperatures begin to rise. In fact, a new report by TruGreen and OnePoll found that 75% of respondents indicated that their outdoor space was indispensable this past year, and with the pandemic still at play, 69% of homeowners intend to spend even more time outdoors as it gets warm. But as we welcome warmer weather, it brings the chance of rain and the subsequent arrival of mosquitoes.
Predictions show that 2021 weather forecasts designate a wetter than normal year across the country, therefore we can expect an above average mosquito population. With new breeds emerging in certain regions and an anticipated increased population, technicians should be armed with the following tips when inspecting properties for mosquitoes.
KNOW YOUR BIOLOGY AND ECOLOGY. A company’s success or failure all boils down to the training it provides its service technicians. Beyond understanding what could be identified as a problem area, it’s critically important technicians have a biological understanding of the pests they are targeting, and ecological knowledge of the trees, shrubs, bodies of water and other places pests call home to best customize a treatment plan.
Mosquito treatments often include the usage of insecticides. Though the products being used are EPA-registered and have undergone numerous health, safety and environmental tests, appropriate training can help ensure technicians properly use treatments around bodies of water without contaminating the water source.
Of equal concern are trees and shrubs classified as edibles and/or pollinator-friendly. With the proper ecological education, technicians can identify these trees and shrubs, and leave them untreated. Companies like TruGreen also have a pollinator policy in place, in which out of an abundance of caution for bee and other pollinator health, technicians will not treat flowering plants. Policies like these ensure pollinators are top-of-mind for technicians. This knowledge and policy background also helps with customer education; when discussing necessary services, technicians can explain the areas of treatment, and the rationale behind potential problem areas being left untouched.
Proper education and memory recall are important, but having a pocket guide or charts on local trees, shrubs, pests and the latest on EPA requirements also aids in a seamless inspection and treatment of properties.
UTILIZE ESSENTIAL TOOLS AND RESOURCES. Prior to servicing a home — especially a property that is fairly large — technicians should utilize surveying resources that are readily available, including property appraiser websites and/or aerial mapping via the likes of Google Earth or Apple Maps, or even drones if made available by their company. By doing so, technicians can navigate potentially difficult property lines, as well as identify breeding sites that could be overlooked, all before ever arriving at the property.
Once on the property, having items like a screwdriver or probe of some sort, as well as a flashlight, will be critical in checking those tough-to-reach places and helping identify if mosquitoes are present in a plant, tree or water source.
HAVE A KEEN EYE. An extension of the educational component is having a keen eye and an inquiring mind — knowing where to look and what to look for when inspecting a property for mosquitoes. Technicians should essentially become the Sherlock Holmes of the property they are treating, seeking out the root cause(s) of the problem. Often, our perception does not always match the reality of the situation.
Mosquitoes harbor in dense foliage and other damp places, safe from predators. There are the obvious places to look, like puddles, birdbaths or unattended pools, toys harboring water, tree hollows, or gutters overflowing with debris. But the critical part of inspection is finding the not-so-obvious places.
Look into “busy” or cluttered areas on the property, on the underside of leaves, and into plants (e.g., ornamentals) that hold water; inspect drainage routes — while the gutters are a prime area to inspect, check the run-off system for puddles, and scan the entire drainage system for any obvious holes where mosquitoes could potentially breed; and even look for insurmountable litter on the property. A single overturned bottle cap can allow 100 mosquitoes to breed if puddled; imagine the breeding opportunities in grander spaces.
Following inspection and identification of breeding sites, communication with the homeowner is a critical next step. Transparency in findings and the appropriate course of action — both from the homeowner and technician — are critical to the success of mosquito control.
Though the mosquito lifecycle is short, if left untreated or not kept on a consistent treatment cadence, coupled with poor property maintenance, the outdoor oasis that homeowners are looking to enjoy as the weather gets warmer may not be the reality. Following these tips can help ensure that is not the case.
John Bell is board-certified entomologist at TruGreen, a leading lawn care provider whose services include mosquito, flea and tick control. With 30 years of experience in the pest control service industry, Bell applies his knowledge to help enhance technical services in both product development and successful implementation of new service lines to the field.