Homeowners need to be cautious of mosquitoes and eliminating their breeding grounds.

The “Four Ds” of defense are:

-- Drain: Empty standing water, thus eliminating mosquito breeding sites

-- Dress: Put on long sleeved shirts and pants when going outside.

-- Defend: Apply mosquito repellent when going outside.

-- Dusk and Dawn: Avoid outdoor activity during thesetwo most mosquito-active periods

Repairing screen doors and windows are critically important to keeping mosquitoes out. Managing landscape water features is also important.

“Mosquito dunks, commonly sold in garden centers for mosquito control in home water features, can be used to treat water that cannot be readily drained. The dunks contain insect growth regulators or mosquito-specific bacteria to effectively control mosquito larvae. Neither approach is harmful to fish or other aquatic organisms.”

 “Anything that holds water should be dumped or treated. Breeding areas can include sites as benign as containers under potted plants and bird baths. Other trouble areas are old tires, empty cans and bottles, kiddie pools, buckets, boat tarps and even clogged gutters.

“It doesn’t take much water for them to reproduce.  Small containers can hold enough water to breed mosquitoes. Aedes mosquitoes don’t travel far from their larval habitat, so if you’ve got them, chances are you unknowingly raised them.”

 EPA and the Centers for Disease Control have evaluated scientific reports and conclude mosquito repellents containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, called IR3535,as active ingredients, provide reasonably long-lasting protection from mosquito bites.

“Users should always read and follow label instructions. Most repellents can be used on children over two months of age, with the exception of those containing oil of lemon eucalyptus, which should not be used on children younger than 3 years old. For babies under two months old, infant carriers fitted with mosquito netting are recommended. Pregnant and breast-feeding mothers can safely use EPA-approved insect repellents.”

 Sonja Swiger, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension entomologist, said that as of this writing, there are 46 recorded cases of Zika in Texas, all travel associated, except for one contracted sexually from their partner who traveled. No Texas mosquitoes have been found to be infected.

“Epidemics are expected as infected people arrive and locally acquired infections occur,” she said. “As the many media accounts report, women infected by the virus while pregnant are known to have babies with severe neurological defects. Aside from mosquito infections, additional cases may occur from sexual transmission of the disease. So at this point, controlling mosquitoes and protecting yourself from infection are the two key factors in the rigorous defense against this new mosquito-borne virus threat.”

Lonnie Jenschke is an Erath County extension agent.