What’s the Buzz?

Tips to keep mosquitoes off your patio and away from diners.

By Ron Harrison, Ph.D.

It’s no doubt restaurants want to have a positive buzz around their communities — with great reviews on Yelp, Urban Spoon and local newspapers. But what they don’t want is the buzz of pesky mosquitoes to run diners off their patios during the summer months.

The mosquito season in the United States varies by region, but typically, mosquitoes appear once temperatures start to heat up during summer. Mosquito activity then usually diminishes when the first freeze occurs. So for many areas, mosquitoes continue to be a problem in late summer and even early fall.

Mosquitoes are making even more of a buzz this year with the threat of the Zika virus. The Zika virus spreads to humans primarily through the bite of mosquitoes in the Aedes genus. Zika can cause microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with small heads and incomplete brain development. The same mosquitoes can also be carriers of chikungunya and dengue. Diseases such as West Nile virus and malaria can be transmitted by other mosquito species.

Prior to 2015, known Zika cases were limited to parts of Africa and Asia, but more than 1 million cases have been reported in Brazil since 2015 and the World Health Organization (WHO) has noted the virus is spreading to many countries, including the United States.

Because these pesky bugs can be a health threat for your diners and employees, it’s important to understand how to fight against them in and around your property. Any restaurant with a patio or open air dining area, including large window openings, should consider creating a plan to make their establishment inhospitable for mosquitoes, while being more welcoming to human guests.

So what can you do? You can start by contacting your pest management provider about creating an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan for your property. IPM is a customized and proactive approach to pest control that focuses on reducing conducive conditions in an ongoing cycle of assessing the issues, implementing corrective actions and monitoring for improvements. Your pest management professional can help you identify the most efficient and effective prevention and control methods for mosquitoes surrounding your property. 

Consider the following tips to help protect your employees and diners from mosquito bites: 

Be on the Lookout for Still Water

Standing water is the mosquito’s preferred breeding ground. In fact, mosquitoes only need a few inches of standing water to breed, so it’s important to watch out for even small amounts of standing water.

• Remove standing water in gutters, buckets, saucers under planters and flowerpots, and other containers.

• If you have any ponds or fountains on your property, a pest management professional can test and treat the water with products that use insect growth regulators or bacteria to help disrupt the early stages of the mosquito life cycle.

Clean Up Heavy Vegetation

Reduce existing adult mosquito populations by cleaning up overgrown vegetation.

• Thin out heavy vegetation and trim bushes and branches back from around your patio, as mosquitoes can rest on the underside of leaves when not in flight.

• As part of an IPM plan, non-chemical, prevention methods are preferred, but if they fail and mosquito populations grow, consult your pest management professional about treatments that may be appropriate for your property.

Keep Air Flowing

Mosquitoes have a hard time flying against wind. Do your best to keep air moving to help deter these weak fliers.

• Install overhead fans to keep the air moving, if possible, above your patio. You can also install electric fans around the perimeter of the patio.

• Install air curtains (fans that create a wall of air mosquitoes can’t fly through) at entrances and exits.

• Work with an HVAC professional to create positive airflow in the building. When doors open, air should push flying insects out, rather than sucking them into the building.

You may also consider going the extra mile by keeping an EPA-registered repellent on hand and available for diners that contains one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol or IR3535.

If the mosquito population continues to increase around your restaurant, alert your pest management provider immediately. The faster your provider can identify the issue, the sooner it can be resolved — and the faster your diners can get back to enjoying their drinks on the patio.

 

Ron Harrison, entomologist, Ph.D., is director of technical services for Orkin. He is an acknowledged leader in the field of pest management with more than 30 years of experience. Contact Dr. Harrison at rharriso@orkin.com.

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