As a landscaper, it’s your job to help clients enjoy their yards and outdoor spaces. When warm weather sweeps across Michigan, common pests, such as mosquitos and ticks, start to make their presence known. Bug bites aren’t just irritating — they can be a vector for diseases that are dangerous to humans and animals alike.
Help your clients protect their health and improve enjoyment of their outdoor spaces by effectively managing mosquito and tick populations around their homes.
Is any summer insect as ubiquitous and immediately identifiable as the common mosquito? More than 65 species of these buzzing insects can be found in backyards across Michigan, where they quickly become pests to outdoor-loving homeowners and family pets. As mosquitos are known to carry a number of serious diseases — such as Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), Zika virus, West Nile virus, Chikungunya virus and dengue — managing mosquito populations is a common landscaping request.
Targeting mosquitos in their immature stages — egg, larva and pupa — will have the greatest impact on your clients’ quality of life, according to advice published by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Luckily, the mosquito’s unique lifecycle makes this approach easy to carry out for landscapers and homeowners alike.
Mosquitos require moisture to stay active, breed and lay eggs, preferring to live and hunt near stagnant water. Any place on your client’s property where standing water can sit for more than two days, can become a breeding ground for mosquitos. Control mosquito populations by:
- Removing items that collect stagnant water – Children’s swimming pools, old tires and empty pots are all examples of mosquito-friendly real estate. If your client requests to keep any of these items, store them upside down somewhere dry, such as in a garage or shed.
- Emptying and changing water in bird baths, fountains and rain barrels at least once a week – These items can bring new life to a yard by supporting native wildlife, but they can become overrun with mosquitos without the proper care. Empty these yard features regularly and keep water circulating to prevent mosquitos from getting a foothold. If your clients don’t want the added labor, consider adding non-toxic mosquito-control products to water features, including ponds.
- Filling any divots or dips in the yard with dirt – Strong storms and excessive yard watering also play roles in mosquitos’ survival, creating temporary pools where mosquitos thrive until the water dries up. Prevent this by filling any divots or dips in the yard with dirt, mulch or another appropriate ground cover.
There are other options available for mosquito control, ranging from pesticides to sustainable solutions that take advantage of mosquitos’ natural predators. Pesticides can quickly reduce the population but potentially harm people and pets if they’re exposed. Sustainable methods include landscaping with mosquito-repelling plants, installing plant boxes or employing natural predators like fish and frogs. Landscapers should carefully weigh their options when selecting a control method — choosing what’s most beneficial to client needs while considering potential environmental impacts.
Need additional information? The American Mosquito Control Association offers detailed professional insight into suppressing mosquito populations for individuals and communities.
Did you know more than 20 known tick species call Michigan home? Several species are known to bite people and pets, potentially transmitting dangerous bacteria, viruses and parasites, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The most well-known of these is Lyme disease, a multi-system illness that results in joint pain, weakness and fatigue.
To properly treat ticks in your clients’ yards, it’s important to understand where they live and how they hunt. Ticks generally prefer shady, moist areas in wooded and grassy locations. More active in the warmer months, they hunt for hosts by perching on the tips of tall grasses or bushes. When their prey brushes by, they quickly climb aboard to find the perfect spot to grab a “bite.”
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends using the following landscaping practices to create tick-safe zones:
- Removing leaf litter and clearing tall grass – Ticks, as you know, have a unique way of hunting. Prevent them from finding a host effectively by eliminating their preferred habitat. Mow the lawn frequently and dispose of tree clippings, dead leaves and other organic matter promptly to discourage ticks.
- Creating barriers and safe zones – Use wood chips or gravel between lawns or play areas to create a dry barrier that is difficult for ticks to cross, thereby reducing their ability to hunt. The CDC recommends maintaining a nine-foot barrier of lawn between the wood chips and areas like patios, gardens and playsets. Use these barriers to create a tick-safe zone for daily outdoor activities — such as gardening, playing or relaxing.
- Controlling deer movement through the yard – Deer are a common food source for many species of ticks. Prevent deer from entering client yards by installing a fence or planting deer-resistant crops. These steps will ensure they won’t have a regular food source in the yard, limiting the spread of ticks.
Similar to mosquitos, using pesticides can reduce the number of ticks in treated areas of the yard. The University of Maine Tick Lab reports that acaricides — pesticides that kill ticks — can reduce tick populations, especially when combined with other management options. Only licensed applicators should use these products, so seek out trusted professionals in your area if your clients request chemical control.
Understanding how to manage pest insects effectively can be an important element of a successful landscaping business. By following best practices and federal guidance from organizations like the CDC and EPA, you can improve your clients’ outdoor experiences for the entire season. However, this work can come with risks, such as potential exposure to harmful chemicals and insect-borne diseases, so ensure you’re protected.
Before adding this new line of business, take the time to contact MNLA’s insurance expert, Ashley Thomas, for a free risk analysis to ensure you’re fully protected. Learn more about available coverage at gallagheraffinity.com/mnla or contact Ashley Thomas of Gallagher Affinity at 918.764.1619 or firstname.lastname@example.org for a coverage review.
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