How to Combat West Nile – the Green Way?

Sometimes I wonder why I bother to read the news… last week I read about a medical study that found that the West Nile Virus can slowly destroy your kidneys even if you are young and healthy when you contract the disease and don’t exhibit any of the identifiable symptoms. Dallas has decided to aerially spray a chemical to help kill off the insects that transmit the virus to humans, mosquitoes, while other cities (including Philadelphia) are spraying similar chemicals by hand or from trucks. The chemicals being used in these applications is commonly a synthetic version of a chemical naturally produced by chrysanthemum flowers, but are there any other options?

Well, in addition to eliminating areas of untreated, standing water, wearing protective clothing and repellant, I suggest green stormwater infrastructure as a more long-term, sustainable solution. This is for two reasons: limiting standing water and supporting this menacing insect’s natural predators.

1. Limiting Standing Water

Other than that watering can you forgot to bring in last night or the kid’s wading pool, what are other sources of standing water? Stagnant detention basins, low-lying areas without sufficient drainage capacity, flooded streets, sidewalks and gutters… and these are much harder for one person/family/household to eliminate… these areas require a larger strategy to address. Green stormwater management tools such as rain (infiltration) gardens, vegetated swales and pervious pavement can help infiltrate runoff and improve surface drainage. Rain gardens are designed to drain completely within 48 hours (not long enough for mosquitoes to breed) and rainwater storage systems such as rain barrels should be covered and emptied within 72 hours after every rainfall.

Check out this Texas couple’s story of successfully building a rain garden in their backyard:

2. Supporting Natural Mosquito Eaters

Rain gardens and other native vegetation can attract and support some of mosquitoes’ natural predators such as dragonflies and damsel flies. Additionally, on-site stormwater management reduces the amount of polluted runoff that reaches our water bodies where other predators such as frogs, fish, birds and crustaceans need fresh water to survive.

Apparently today is also World Mosquito Day so let’s celebrate mosquitoes [or rather their predators!] and protect our streams and rivers:

3. Next Tactic: Pet Mosquitofish??

Unfortunately, they are only native to the Mississippi River watershed…

Check out this post and accompanying infographic “Are You A Mosquito Magnet?” for more information on the biology and chemistry behind who gets bitten more than others: