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What's the buzz on mosquitoes?

Aug. 9, 2010

The big buzz this summer is not what you'd expect. It's not an idea, a new product or a place to go. This year the big buzz is a nuisance.

It is the incessant onslaught of summer's unwelcome visitor - the mosquito - that has made enjoying the weather outside nearly impossible.

Thanks to those frequent and heavy rainstorms earlier this summer, the summer pests make their presence known every time you venture outdoors.

High demand for sprays and other protective agents have kept retailers busy.

Frank Krivitz, manager at Stein Garden Center in Oconomowoc, said it is difficult to keep the products on the shelves.

"It started about three or four weeks ago when we had those heavy rains that came through. After that is when the mosquito population took off," he said.

"Even our suppliers are wiped out," he added.

Krivitz wryly offered this advice: "Stay indoors," he laughed.

That suggestion is echoed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which advises that people can avoid getting bitten by staying indoors at sunrise, sunset and early in the evening when mosquitoes are most active. If you must be outdoors, the agency suggests wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks.

No wonder people are searching for other solutions. Who wants to choose between spending your summer in the house, or going outside bundled up for protection, given the summer's heat and humidity?

In Hartland, Jeff Wandsneider of Biebels True Value said he has seen the request for mosquito sprays increase.

"The demand is growing, but over the last two weeks it's been crucial," he said.

"We got an order of 64 in on Tuesday, and they're already gone today," he said Thursday morning of the lawn spray that attaches to the hose.

"It's been hard to keep in stock. There are quantities in the warehouse, but I'm sure those will dwindle if the demand continues," he said.

"They're the size of bats," he said of the current crop of mosquitoes.

Jim Olson, owner of Olson Ace Hardware in Dousman, said mosquito repellents are the hottest-selling items in the store.

"It's almost impossible" to keep in stock, he said.

"People don't just get that everyone has the problem too. It's like coming in after a big snowstorm to find a run on salt.

"At the rate it's going right now, definitely every few days we have to replenish the stock," he said.

Olson estimates that sales on repellent yard sprays are up about 500 percent from a normal year; other items used to keep mosquitoes away for individual use are up an estimated 300 percent, he noted.

Jerry Burchardt, owner of Lorleberg True Value Hardware in Oconomowoc, has seen customers clamoring for relief from the pests.

"It's across the board; every type of product from sprays for the lawn as well as personal supplies are in demand.

"There has been a very high demand for it. We have a very good supply on hand, but it is a heavier demand than normal this late in the season, after all the rain," he said.

Burchardt noted that the problem is localized.

"This is affecting only the tip of Southeast Wisconsin here, not the entire nation," he said.

How to fight

In addition to employing over-the-counter repellent measures, follow these recommendations issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:

Control mosquitoes around the home

• Remove their habitat (where they live and breed)

• Eliminate standing water in rain gutters, old tires, buckets, plastic covers, toys, or any other container where mosquitoes can breed.

• Empty and change the water in bird baths, fountains, wading pools, rain barrels, and potted plant trays at least once a week to destroy potential mosquito habitats.

• Drain or fill temporary pools of water with dirt.

• Keep swimming pool water treated and circulating.

Prevent your exposure to mosquitoes

• Use EPA-registered mosquito repellents when necessary, and follow label directions and precautions closely.

• Use head nets, long sleeves and long pants if you venture into areas with high mosquito populations, such as salt marshes.

• If there is a mosquito-borne disease warning in effect, stay inside during the evening when mosquitoes are active.

• Make sure window and door screens are "bug tight."

• Replace your outdoor lights with yellow "bug" lights, which tend to attract less mosquitoes than ordinary lights. The yellow lights are not repellents, however.

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Weekend Happenings

Featured this week:  

North Shore Bank-Taste of Lake Country: 5 p.m. July 29, 4 p.m. July 30, Pewaukee Beach Front, 120 W. Wisconsin Ave., Pewaukee. Headline Friday night is The Toys and Saturday night The Love Monkeys. Free.

Kids from Wisconsin: 7:30 p.m. July 29, Oconomowoc Arts Center, 641 E. Forest St., Oconomowoc. Celebrating its 48th show season with a talented group of 33 young performers representing 29 different hometowns across Wisconsin, this year’s tour theme is Sing! Free.

Wisconsin State Frog Jump Championship: 1 p.m. July 30-31, Cory Park, Downtown Dousman, Dousman. Visit  

Catelyn Picco: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 31, Mama D’s Coffee, 104 W Main St., Wales. Free.

All weekend happenings