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Q:  What Can Homeowners Do?
As a mosquito control agency, there is only so much that we can do to prevent mosquitoes and the diseases they can transmit from affecting local residents. As county residents, you can help reduce mosquitoes around the home by taking basic steps to reduce habitats. Additionally, you can take precautions to help prevent your exposure to mosquito bites and any diseases they may transmit. Any container holding water is a potential mosquito-breeding source and is likely to cause problems around the house.

Of particular concern are clogged gutters and scattered tires. Both tend to collect leaves, then fill with water and provide very attractive sites for mosquitoes to breed. Since these containers are water tight, they dry out very slowly and are generally the cause of mosquito problems around the home. Gutters should be kept clean and other containers removed or overturned to limit mosquito-breeding sites.

Other basic steps homeowners can take to reduce mosquito populations around the home include:

  • Dump all standing water from containers around the home. This includes children’s pools, flower pots, tarps, garbage cans, and anything else that may hold water.
  • Clean out bird baths once a week.
  • Eliminate standing water or low areas in your yard.
  • Clean the gutters on your house.
  • Use an aerator or fish in any ornamental ponds,
  • Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers that are left outside. Drainage holes that are located on the sides collect enough water for mosquitoes to breed in.
  • Remove any discarded tires from your property and recycle them.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, even if they are not being used. A swimming pool left unattended can cause a mosquito problem throughout the whole neighborhood.

Q:  Do commercial mosquito traps work?
Most commercial mosquito traps use an attractant to lure mosquitoes to them. This may actually attract more mosquitoes to your yard than the trap can catch. While traps are capable of collecting large numbers of mosquitoes, it may not reduce overall populations around your home.

Q:  How can I prevent mosquito bites?

  1. Use repellents.  Some insect repellents are extremely effective at preventing mosquito bites and, when used correctly, do not pose a health concern.  Repellents containing DEET, Picaridin or IR3535 have been shown to be the most effective. Some example repellents commercially available are Off, Cutter, and Skin So Soft.
  2. Wear protective clothing. Cover exposed skin by wearing long sleeves, socks and pants. Repellents such as Permethrin are available to treat clothing, but be sure to follow all labeled directions for use.  Wearing long sleeved clothing and pants will also reduce your exposure to mosquito bites during peak times.
  3. Avoid mosquitoes. While some mosquitoes may bite during the day, most are active between dusk and dawn. Avoid outdoor activities in the 2-3 hours around sunset and sunrise may help avoid mosquitoes. During the day, mosquitoes rest in shaded humid areas, and will feed if you are in their habitat. Keeping adult mosquitoes out of the home is another important step in avoiding mosquito bites. Homeowners should ensure that window and door screens are properly fitted and do not have any holes that would allow mosquitoes into the home.

Q: How many mosquitoes species are there?
About 3000 species of mosquitoes have been described on a world-wide basis with approximately 150 known to occur in North America. The term "Mosquito State" is appropriate for New Jersey because 64 species of mosquitoes have been found within its boundaries to date. In Essex county, over 20 species of mosquitoes have been found, and our inspectors and biologists are constantly looking for any new species.

Q: What is the life cycle of a mosquito?
Mosquitoes of different species lay their eggs in a variety of water sources that range from small containers to vast expanses of marshland. The larval stage is always aquatic and shuttles from the subsurface where it filter feeds on micro-organisms to the surface to obtain oxygen through a snorkel-like breathing apparatus. The pupal stage does not feed but unlike most insect pupae is extremely active. The adult emerges from the pupal case using air pressure and assumes a terrestrial existence.

Mosquitoes have four stages of development: egg, larva, pupa and adult.  As mentioned, they spend their larval and pupal stages in water.  Female mosquitoes of most pest species in Essex County deposit eggs on moist surfaces such as mud or fallen leaves.  Rain refloods these surfaces and stimulates the hatching of the eggs, thus starting the life cycle.  Other mosquito species in the county lay their eggs on the surface of permanent water and since the water is constantly present, there are always eggs hatching and larvae developing.  Mosquitoes take approximately one week to develop from egg to the flying adult.  After emerging from the aquatic stages, adult mosquitoes mate and the females seek a blood meal to obtain nutrients necessary for egg development.  Only the female adult bites, while both sexes utilize sugar sources for general nutrient requirements.  While various species differ significantly, the average life expectancy for adult mosquitoes is 4-6 weeks during the summer.

Q: What is the Asian tiger mosquito?
The Asian Tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, is a species that in recent years has played a much larger role in local mosquito control. The mosquito was first found in New Jersey in 1996 and has rapidly increased its range across the state since.

The Asian Tiger mosquito is a very distinct mosquito that is relatively easy to spot by casual observers.  It is a small mosquito, black in color with distinct white bands on its legs and body.  This mosquito is a significant backyard pest, aggressively seeking blood meals from humans. Unlike many other mosquito species, the Asian Tiger mosquito bites during day and night times.  Typically, this mosquito species flies low to the ground and starts biting around the ankles before working its way up the body to find an appropriate feeding area.

Control of the Asian Tiger mosquito is a challenge due to its close association with humans. Adult females lay their eggs in small containers of water rather than the larger habitats utilized by many common mosquitoes. The Asian Tiger mosquito will utilize almost any container that holds water for long enough to complete it’s life cycle, including bird baths, flower pots, small cans, children’s toys, cemetery urns, tarps and discarded tires. Larvae of this mosquito have even been found in habitats as small as bottle caps and discarded plastic bags.

The Asian Tiger mosquito is a poor flyer, and generally does not travel more than a few hundred yards from its larval source. If you are dealing with an infestation of the Asian Tiger mosquito, you can help greatly by ensuring that your (and your neighbors) yards are free from containers holding water. Removing habitats from your own backyard helps our inspectors fight this aggressive mosquito and improves our chances of finding areas they are coming from. If you know of any potential sources such as an unmaintained pool, tire pile, or foreclosed property, please note that when contacting us to request a mosquito inspection.

Q: Why do mosquitoes bite?
Mosquitoes belong to a group of insects that require blood to develop fertile eggs. Males do not lay eggs, thus, male mosquitoes do not bite. The females are the egg producers and "host-seek" for a blood meal. Female mosquitoes lay multiple batches of eggs and require a blood meal for every batch they lay. Few people realize that mosquitoes rely on sugar as their main source of energy. Both male and female mosquitoes feed on plant nectar, fruit juices and liquids that ooze from plants. The sugar is burned as fuel for flight and is replenished on a daily basis. Blood is reserved for egg production and is imbibed less frequently.

When a female mosquito pierces the skin with her mouthparts, she injects a small amount of saliva into the wound before drawing blood. The saliva makes penetration easier and prevents the blood from clotting in the narrow channel of her food canal. The welts that appear after the mosquito leaves is not a reaction to the wound but an allergic reaction to the saliva injected to prevent clotting. In most cases, the itching sensation and swellings subside within several hours. Some people are highly sensitive and symptoms persist for several days. Scratching the bites can result in infection if bacteria from the fingernails are introduced to the wounds.

Q: Can mosquitoes carry diseases?
Any insect that feeds on blood has the potential of transmitting disease organisms from animal to human. Mosquitoes are highly developed blood-sucking insects and are the most formidable transmitters of disease in the animal kingdom. Mosquito-borne diseases are caused by human parasites that have a stage in their life cycle that enters the blood stream. The female mosquito picks up the blood stage of the parasite when she imbibes blood to develop her eggs. The parasites generally use the mosquito to complete a portion of their own life cycle and either multiply, change in form inside the mosquito or do both. After the mosquito lays her eggs, she seeks a second blood meal and transmits the fully developed parasites to the next unwitting host. Malaria is a parasitic protozoan that infects the blood cells of humans and is transmitted from one human to the next by Anopheles mosquitoes. Encephalitis is a virus of the central nervous system that is passed from infected birds to humans by mosquitoes that accept birds as blood meal hosts in addition to humans. Yellow fever is a virus infection of monkeys that can either be transmitted from monkey to human or from human to human in tropical areas of the world. Dog heartworm is a large filarial worm that lives in the heart of dogs but produces a blood stage small enough to develop in a mosquito. The dog heartworm parasite does not develop properly in humans and is not regarded as a human health problem.

Contact Info

For more information please contact:

Eric Williges
Superintendent, Essex County Division of Environmental Affairs

P / 973.239.3366 ext. 2380
F / 973.239.7507

Essex County Division of Environmental Affairs
99 West Bradford Ave
Cedar Grove, NJ 07009

Office Hours:
Monday to Friday
7:00 am to 3:00pm

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