(BPT) - Malaria, West Nile virus and heartworms - as if you didn't already have enough reasons to fear and loathe mosquitoes and the illnesses they spread, now there's Zika, a virus that is possibly linked to birth defects. Mosquitoes are much more than itchy nuisances; the illnesses they can transmit with their bite kill thousands of humans every year. In fact, some scientists believe malaria, a mosquito-borne illness, has killed one out of every two humans who has ever lived, according to a report in National Geographic.
Keeping mosquitoes away from your home, yard and family is much more than a matter of convenience; it may help preserve your health. Eliminating standing water from your property is the single most effective thing you can do as a homeowner to minimize the presence of mosquitoes around your property. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in still water - puddles and standing water in your yard can be a breeding ground.
"When warm weather arrives, that low spot in the backyard where water always collects becomes much more troublesome than just being an eyesore," says Ryan Larsen, a civil engineer with NDS Inc., a leading manufacturer of water management solutions. "It will attract mosquitoes that will want to lay their eggs in that standing water, but first they need to bite a human or two."
Homeowners may think solving their drainage problems will be difficult and costly, or that they'll end up with an ugly drainage ditch on their property. But Larsen says it is possible to eliminate standing water cost-effectively and attractively. He suggests homeowners take these five simple steps:
1. Identify actual or potential trouble spots.
Is there a low area in the yard where water collects after rain? Are any downspouts or gutters on your home clogged with debris? Does water linger along a retaining wall, edging, walkway or patio after you've irrigated the lawn? Mosquitoes can lay their eggs in very shallow standing water, so anywhere water collects could be a breeding ground.
2. Address the easy fixes first.
The gutters, downspouts and minor collection spots are easily addressed by simply clearing away the obstructions. When those issues are resolved, homeowners should concentrate on addressing low areas, Larsen says. "These muddy, wet areas look bad, can kill grass, attract mosquitos and eventually lead to more serious damage to a property," he says.
3. Determine the scope of the problem.
Standing water on a property can occur in multiple spots, from walkways to lawns. NDS offers an online Home Drainage Center to help you identify your problem, possible solutions and whether the resolution is a DIY project or if you'll need to hire a professional.
4. Choose and install your solution.
French drains, underground drainage and catch basins are typical solutions for many home drainage problems. Placing drainage underground not only minimizes the risk of mosquitoes breeding in standing water, it can preserve the visual appeal of your landscape. For example, for NDS drainage solutions that involve catch basins, the company offers a wide selection of decorative catch basin grates, so the portion of the system you can't hide will be visually appealing. Most drainage systems can be installed in just one weekend.
5. Take steps to protect yourself.
Mosquitoes have been around since the time of the dinosaurs (and they've been spreading malaria for that long, too), according to National Geographic. While eliminating standing water on your property will go a long way toward reducing the number of mosquitoes in your environment, it's virtually impossible to remove them entirely. The American Mosquito Control Association says some mosquitoes will travel 40 miles or more in search of a meal. When outdoors, wear insect repellant on exposed skin and clothing. Choose repellants with an active ingredient like DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Dark colors attract mosquitoes, so wear lighter colored clothing, and burn citronella candles or run a fan near the ground when you're enjoying your deck or patio.
For more information about home drainage solutions, visit www.ndspro.com/home-drainage, where you'll also find instructional videos, the Home Drainage Center, production recommendations, installation instructions and helpful links. You can also email your home drainage questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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