Excessive rainfall in parts of the United States has created perfect conditions for a boom in the mosquito population, leaving golfers and facilities interested in mosquito control. Not only are mosquitoes annoying on the golf course, they also carry potential health risks. Using insect repellent is a great way for golfers to protect themselves while playing, as long as they are careful to apply away from turf areas to avoid causing turf damage. Also, many golf course superintendents are implementing facility-wide control measures in an effort to reduce mosquito populations. However, the first step in controlling mosquito populations is to understand mosquito biology and habitat.
Biology of Mosquitoes
Adult females are the only blood-feeding mosquitoes, typically feeding before sunrise and around sunset. Also, mosquitoes require abundant water to complete their life cycle because their larvae develop in slow-moving or stagnant water. Furthermore, mosquitoes are not strong fliers so they typically reside and feed near shady, humid areas such as under tree canopies and in areas of dense vegetation.
Reducing standing water is an excellent way to decrease mosquito pressure. Filling low spots, repairing clogged drains, clearing gutters and addressing standing water on flat rooftops are all beneficial steps toward reducing potential mosquito breeding grounds.
Eliminating mosquito habitat, especially near areas where golfers congregate, also will help reduce mosquito issues. Pruning or removing trees and shrubs around tees and greens not only helps reduce mosquito habitat but also provides agronomic benefits. Eliminating overgrown aquatic vegetation, like water lettuce or water hyacinth, also helps reduce mosquito habitat.
Stocking golf course ponds and lakes with fish, like Gambusia, that feed on mosquito larvae is an effective means of biological control. Applying the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis to bodies of water also can help reduce the number of mosquito larvae. Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis is sold under a number of different trade names and poses no danger to fish or animals when used according to label directions. 1 Also, golf courses are installing bat boxes because bats are natural predators of mosquitos. The USGA Regional Update Welcome To The Bat Cave explains how to build a bat box at your facility.
There are a number of insecticides that are very effective against adult mosquitoes and are labelled for use on golf courses. Pyrethroids, such as products containing bifenthrin, deltamethrin or lambda-cyhalothrin, are especially effective at controlling mosquitoes while also providing good residual activity. Furthermore, pyrethroids are very effective against ticks, flies and chiggers. Some pest control companies specialize in mosquito applications using pyrethroid materials.
Focus insecticide applications to tree lines, vegetative areas, ornamental plantings, areas around buildings and underneath raised decks and any other dark, humid environment. Insecticides for controlling mosquitoes are most effective when applied as small spray droplets at high pressure using mist blowers, air-blast sprayers or hand-held sprayers. Care should be taken to thoroughly read product labels and follow all directions and restrictions, particularly regarding any required boundary distance from water bodies.
Successfully controlling mosquito populations can greatly improve the golf experience at your course. Mosquito-control measures like clearing brush and draining low-lying areas may also improve turf conditions. Using a combination of cultural, biological and chemical mosquito controls should help keep golfers at your facility swinging instead of swatting this summer.
1"Mosquitoes." Gardening Solutions. University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, n.d. Web. 14 June 2016.
2Chen-Hussey, Vanessa, Ron Behrens, and James G. Logan. "Assessment of Methods Used to Determine the Safety of the Topical Insect Repellent N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide (DEET)." Parasites & Vectors. BioMed Central, 3 June 2014. Web. 14 June 2016.