July 3, 2002 | By: Laura Skillman
PRINCETON, Ky.

Mosquitoes, chiggers and ticks can make the outdoors anything but fun, but there are ways to limit exposure to these itchy pests.

Mosquitoes generally come in one of two types of habits, said Doug Johnson, University of Kentucky Extension Entomologist. Some come because of a consistent water source and are generally an annual problem. They also can come from areas that are prone to flooding. Eggs are laid in areas likely to flood, and when it does 10 days later there is a flight of adults. This happens generally in the spring.

"I've had reports from people saying they are just inundated with mosquitoes and other places where there haven't been many," he said.

If a person has a repetitive difficulty with mosquitoes, then something has to be done to alter the environment. It can be as simple as a town putting on a massive drive to make sure there is nothing that collects water. Tires top that list.

"A tire is the greatest mosquito breeder ever invented," Johnson said. "It is black. It holds water. It is rubber, and it gets warm very quickly. But old pools, soda cups or anything that holds water for two weeks after a rain can be a producer of mosquitoes."

Other breeding sources may be more difficult to control such as a wetland that produces them constantly and has for several years. There can be some relief through treating the area with an insecticidal product that inflicts naturally occurring diseases into the mosquitoes. These have been used on the Tradewater River in west Kentucky to control black flies.

For farm ponds, the key is to have a stable water level because it eliminates one type of mosquito. In addition, insecticides targeting mosquitoes with natural diseases can also be used. Control has to be done all year long and with a plan, Johnson said.

"Ticks and chiggers are a part of summer in Kentucky," he said. "I grew up picking blackberries and being covered up with chiggers and pulling ticks off. I know that because of some disease situations more people are more sensitive to that and today many people are more urban than rural oriented."

Chiggers can be controlled in lawns through mowing. Mowing also can help with ticks, but they are more mobile.

If there is a tick problem in the yard, it can be treated with an insecticide but often people do not get the results they were expecting, Johnson said. The problem is not with the insecticide but with the amount of water used to apply it, he said. It takes a large volume of water because all the plant tissue they are treating must be covered with the insecticide.

If you know where they are coming from, you can spray only in that area and force them to crawl through an insecticidal barrier, he said.

When venturing out on hikes or fishing, try to stay way from tall grass to avoid chiggers and ticks. Undergrowth, not trees are where the bugs are going to be. There are two types of protection that can be used. One is the insecticide called permethrin for use only on shoes and clothing, and there are also the types that can be put on the skin. It is also helpful to wear light color clothes so you can see them moving around on you. These insects have a tendency to crawl up, so tucking in pants or shirts can help keep them from crawling under clothing.

If you get chiggers, all those things your grandmother used aren't going to help. The fact is, when you itch from a chigger it is already gone. It has already fed. When it feeds, it causes a reaction in your body. Treat topically for the itch.

If a tick is attached, try to remove all its mouth parts and try not to burst it sending blood and entrails go all over the place. The best way to remove it is to use forceps to get as close to the skin as possible and pull steadily on the tick and it will eventually let go. Leaving the tissue of the tick behind may lead to an infection.

People have varying degrees of sensitivity to all these insects along with bees and wasps. If a person is more sensitive to these things, then they need to be aware that they may have to take additional measures to relieve their irritation.

The UK Entomology department has publications available on mosquitoes, chiggers and ticks. These can be obtained through the local office of the UK Cooperative Extension Service.