First Person

I’ve been receiving lots of calls from various communities around the county requesting information on what is being done, or what can be done, to mitigate the biting mosquitoes and gnats. Most inquirers mention that the populations of mosquitoes are significantly higher than usual.

You may have noticed the signs on Main Street as you cross the Rio Grande displaying the message “High River Flows, Avoid Bosque.”

Joshua Sherman

That is because the water has risen above the usual level on the banks, due to the higher-than-expected winter precipitation and snowfall, which is not expected to recede any time soon.

There is an increased surface area of water that is pooling, standing and stagnating, making an ideal habitat for mosquitoes and gnats to complete an essential stage of their life cycle.

The life cycle of a mosquito is quite simple and is mainly spent in water. The four stages are egg, larvae, pupae and adult. The amount of time spent in these four stages differs depending on the mosquito species. The two types we need to be concerned about are the Aedes and the Culex species, since these are the ones capable of spreading deadly arboviruses such as Zika virus, West Nile virus and several encephalitis viruses.

After the female mates with a male and takes a blood meal, she deposits her eggs into the water. After some time, the eggs hatch and reach their larvae stage. If it is the Culex species, the eggs hatch within 48 hours. If it is the Aedes species, they hatch within a few days to a month.

Remember, the water the female lays eggs in must be stagnant without a current or movement. This larval stage lasts five days for both the Culex and Aedes species. The third stage is the pupae stage. This pupae stage lasts for two to three days for both species.

Finally, they emerge from the water as an adult, dry off their wings, and fly away in search of nectar, and the females eventually go after blood after mating.

Now, the million-dollar question is, how can we stop the bloodsuckers?

Reduce the larvae population! How? Reduce the standing, stagnant water. Empty or refresh any container or area that an hold standing water every five days.

  • Turn over or remove containers in your yard where water collects, such as old tires, potted plant trays, buckets, toys, etc.
  • Clean out birdbaths and wading pools at least once a week.
  • Remove standing water on tarps or flat roofs.
  • Clean clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
  • Clean and stock garden ponds with mosquito-eating fish.
  • Recycle old bottles and cans.
  • Repair leaky faucets and sprinklers.
  • Keep swimming pools clean or drain them.
  • Repair door and window screens if torn.
  • Keep weeds and tall grass cut short; adult mosquitoes look for these shady places to rest during the hot daylight hours.
  • Get rid of mosquito breeding sites.
  • Keep window screens on campers, tents, and boats “bug-tight.”

Electric bug “zappers” do not help. They are not recommended. They usually attract more mosquitoes than they can possibly kill, and kill all the other flying insects, beneficial natural predators.

The mosquito-eating fish Gambusia can be released in ponds or other areas with year-round standing water to control mosquito larvae. Gambusia may be available from the local health department, or they may know of a source. Be sure to refrain from releasing Gambusia in ponds and rivers with game fish.

Microbial insecticides such as Bti (Bacillus thuringiensis israeliensis) can be effective. Bti is toxic to mosquito larvae but is not hazardous to non-target organisms. Arbico Organics in Tucson, Ariz., has this available in liquid and powder form.

In other research at NMSU, in the Hansen Laboratory, Hailey Luker, a graduate student, has recently been published in the ‘Nature’ journal with her findings on some essential oils that have proven effective.

Of the 20 essential oils she tested in a 10 percent emulsion in unscented lotion, clove oil, cinnamon oil, geraniol oil and ethyl alcohol protected for more than one hour, while citronella and lemon grass lasted about half an hour.

Additionally, Dr. Immo Hansen, biology professor, has tested numerous types of mosquito repellents over the years. Hansen emphasizes that repellents with DEET in them rank at the top. For those who do not prefer DEET, picaridin is another newer product proving similar effectiveness. “OFF!” products containing picaridin are manufactured and available at most stores.

Some mosquito repelling devices the lab tested that worked well include the Thermacell, which is very effective for outdoor use, and the same is true for the “OFF!” clip-on device. Hansen’s lab collaborates with industry for ongoing testing of new repellents and devices.

Finally, the village of Los Lunas has also established a mosquito control program. The village may be contacted to request for a neighborhood or specific area of the community to be sprayed. The spray request form can be found at

Program Announcements

  • Valencia Extension Master Gardeners program is active. Sign up to become one of the next certified Master Gardeners for classes starting January 2024. Contact Josh Sherman at 505-565-3002. Plant clinics and trainings in the communities are coming soon!
  • 4-H Dessert and Basket Auction Fundraiser will be held on Friday, July 21. For questions, please email or call Sierra Cain [email protected] or 505-65-3002.
  • Wednesday, June 21: “Squash Bugs, Other Hemipteran Insects, and How to Distinguish the Pests from Beneficials” with Dr. Joanie King, NMSU Extension Entomology Specialist. Register at
  • In August, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for Agriculture Producers Symposia. Details coming soon.
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Joshua Sherman, guest columnist