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Prohibiting Pests in Paradise

What do you look forward to when you plan a visit or a move to Oriental, Broad Creek, or nearly any spot on the inland coast of Pamlico Sound? Are you anticipating sunshine, days spent sailing, dolphin sightings, ospreys soaring overhead, a gazillion stars at night, eagles dominating the skies, sudden afternoon thunderstorms that clear abruptly, jeweled drops of dew on the salt marshes at daybreak? Do you conjure images of paradise? So do we, but we also daydream about our anti-pest campaign!

That's right -- mosquitoes and assorted creepy-crawlies -- we think about them so that you won't have to! Flying insects are a part of coastal life. Mosquitoes and the water, they go together like, well, like mosquitoes and water. Certainly, no one seems to be prevented from having fun on account of the mosquitoes, but thoughtful prevention is still welcome and a priority for us owing to concern about our guests' comfort. A property owner can evict pests from their land, but this typically entails the often repeated use of strong chemical pesticides, some of which definitely have or are suspected to have health consequences for humans and which can decimate the friendly bug, reptile, and amphibian population. The question for us is how do we discourage the pests without endangering the health of our animal inhabitants, ourselves, our visitors, and our neighbors?

Mosquito Barrier© is a primary answer for us. We have to admit to a healthy dose of skepticism when we first considered this garlic-based product. It sounds, after all, like a bit of folklore gone wild, that whole vampire and garlic thing. Happily, our research revealed that many, many groundskeepers throughout the coastal northeast, some in nearby North Carolina counties, are using Mosquito Barrier© with terrific results. The dockmaster consulted public parks supervisors, groundskeepers, and private property owners about their use of the product, and we're happy to report every single one of them was entirely pleased with this effective mosquito repellant.

You probably wonder how it works - here's a short quote from the product literature:

The natural sulfur in garlic is both toxic and a deterrent to small insects such as aphids, mosquitoes, white flies, ticks, and the like . . . Insects have a heightened sense of smell, much more than that of humans, and so when Mosquito Barrier© dries after being applied to vegetables and other plants, it continues to work against insects.

The only active ingredient in Mosquito Barrier© is garlic juice (99.3%), and inactive ingredients comprising the other 0.7% of the product include only citric acid (0.5%) and the preservative potassium sorbate (0.2%). All three active and inactive ingredients are on the EPA's exempted products list, EPA FIFRA Sec 25(b), which may be used in what are called "minimum-risk" pesticides. This class of pesticides may be used freely without regulation owing to their demonstrated safety. That's good news for us, as not only are we concerned about our own health and safety but also that of our family, visitors, slipholders, and neighbors.

dockmaster attacks The garlic cure must be reapplied about every three weeks, a definite improvement over twice-weekly malathion treatments, not only from a manpower perspective but also from a chemical concerns perspective. Standing within 25 feet of the open concentrate, the garlic odor is startlingly strong, so much so, in fact, that we briefly considered renaming the joint "The Olive Garden!" Or, as the dockmaster says, it's a "mighty powerful" odor. We're happy to report that in dilution, the garlic smell is much less noticeable and entirely pleasant. Following application, we don't smell it at all in about 30-45 minutes.

The big question, admittedly, is will this work for us? We certainly should know in the next few weeks. Already this year we've seen the early arrival of a few mosquitoes hell-bent on biting our ankles, so we've begun spraying. You can check back for updates to this report to find out how we think we're doing, and we'll let you know what slipholders and visitors think. We're hoping that we'll be able to report the same kind of success as the executive director of a community center in Connecticut that runs a day camp for 200 children. Following application of the product, the children were back on the play area in 20 minutes, the odor dissipated within half an hour, and for two weeks following application there were no insect bites reported.

Our application schedule began with an initial dosing around the house this weekend. In a few weeks, we'll spray the property proper in earnest, and we'll reapply every three weeks throughout the mosquito season. While this is a pretty solid plan, we're taking additional steps to control the pest population as well.

The dockmaster has purchased a 100-pack of Mosquito Dunk©, a natural biocontrol agent whose only active ingredient is Bacillus thuringiensis var. israelensis (Bti), a bacteria species that has been developed as a microbial larvicide. That's a mouthful, eh? In plain language, Bacillus thuringiensis is a naturally occurring bacteria found in soil and plants. Different species of this bacteria produce a crystal protein known to be toxic to particular groups of insects but not to humans and animals.

The bacteria variety found in Mosquito Dunks© is effective against fungus gnats, mosquitoes, and black flies. It's worth noting, however, that unless used throughout an entire community, Bti is only partially effective and so is only the second weapon in our mosquito battle. The dockmaster has placed the dunks in all the ditches surrounding and in the Boonedocks. When you see donut-shaped objects floating in our ditches, you'll know that a potent but safe larvicide is at work. While we wouldn't encourage it, we're assured that if your dog should take a drink out of the ditches, the Bti will have no harmful effect on him or her. In fact, we've read a claim that Bti can be safely placed in rainwater cisterns used to collect drinking water.

The final weapon, for now, in our fight against mosquitoes and ticks is eliminating, as much as possible, standing water and leaf litter. We say as much as possible because we're surrounded by pine trees that have been growing for decades, two salt marshes, very necessary drainage ditches, and literally thousands of assorted trees, bushes, and plants. We can't hope to eliminate all leaf litter or standing water, nor would it be desirable to do so, but as you visit the Boonedocks over the coming months, you'll notice incremental changes. We've been out planting ground cover to replace pine duff and leaf litter. We've cleared paths through the woodland and are still busy placing compost mulch around trees and sowing grass seed between stands of trees. While we don't ever plan on having the kind of rolling green turf frequently seen in our former home state, we do hope to encourage a naturalized, mixed turf that we hope will prove a much less hospitable environment to ticks and mosquitoes.

Summing up, the dockmaster says he's declared war on mosquitoes and they won't be allowed at the Boonedocks. The weather gal thinks perhaps he's a bit overoptimistic but is willing to allow as how we should at least have far, far fewer pests this year as compared to previous years. We'll keep you posted on our progress, and we hope you'll let us know how you think our efforts are going. We especially invite any of our neighbors to drop by and discuss the battle plans. Applied across our entire community, such measures just might drive out those pesky pests. I guess if we repelled the mosquitoes off Fork Point they'd have to go somewhere, but that's some other dockmaster's battle, eh?




Update - May 25, 2003

Here's what we think so far - and, remember, this is purely anecdotal, ain't no scientists at the Boonedocks, you know. We think the Mosquito Barrier© is working. Keeping in mind that we have two marshes and a huge creek to contend with, we don't expect that we'll ever eliminate every mosquito, but we're certainly enjoying a reduction, or at least a perceived reduction, in their numbers. One slipholder tells us that she's accustomed to seeing mosquitoes as she nears the showerhouse, but not this year. Others have similar experiences, but all seem to agree that on the shore-end of the docks, the mosquito population is still intact. At the water-end of the docks, as usual, the wind seems to keep them away.

Around the house and in the near yards, we can walk around in early morning and early evening without repellant. Sometimes I can even cross through the marsh at dawn without a care. Toward the road at almost anytime of day or night, repellant is still helpful. Foliage or soil disruptions still attract a swarm - for instance, the day the cabin went up, we had a sudden spike in the mosquito numbers.

So far, we've used the spray around structures only (house and showerhouse), but now that we're quickly approaching the hot season, we'll probably begin spraying roadsides, docks, and paths, too. We continue to place dunks in areas of standing water and in drainage ditches that only fill after heavy downpours.

The return of the hummingbirds is probably helping, too, as hummingbirds are lively little mosquito killers. We've been told that improving soil conditions and encouraging native plants both help to bring pests populations into balance, not just mosquitoes but all pests. We've been planting perennials attractive to birds, butterflies, dragonflies, and hummingbirds, hoping to increase their populations and, accordingly, decrease the mosquito population.

We'll keep you posted on our progress. For now, we think our efforts are showing promise.







Mosquito Barrier©, produced by Garlic Research Labs, Inc., and Mosquito Dunks© are copyrights of their respective owners.



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