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Keeping diners, not mosquitoes


August 21, 2020
By Alice Sinia, PhD, Quality Assurance Manager – Regulatory/Lab Services, Orkin Canada

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Photo by Candid Shots, Pexels

Alice Sinia, PhD. Photo courtesy Orkin Canada

With restaurants reopening, many are electing for patio-only dining due to COVID-19, ensuring a more socially distanced dining experience. Unfortunately, outside is also where pests go to dine, and while mosquitoes may be small in size, they are considered one of the most dangerous pests. With more than 82 species in Canada alone, the problems they can cause patio diners are anything but tiny.

Knowing what attracts mosquitoes, the health risks they pose and how to prevent these patio pests are all necessary steps to ensuring a pleasant and pest-free outdoor dining experience for your patrons.

What attracts mosquitoes

The best way to prevent a mosquito problem is to keep them from breeding, and the largest attractant for mosquitoes is standing water. Water from rain, dog water bowls, leaked or clogged drains and rain gutters, storm basins and large leaved plants that can collect water can all offer enough standing water for mosquitoes to breed – all they need is 25 millimetres. Mosquitoes can lay between 100 and 400 eggs at one time.

Overgrown landscaping can also offer an ideal environment for mosquitoes to rest and dry off their wings after enjoying standing water. After a heavy rain or plant watering, gently shake water off any large leaves. Mow grass regularly and ensure all landscaping near outdoor dining spaces is consistently maintained and groomed. This will also help deter ants and rodents from snacking on crumbs left by patrons.

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Most mosquitoes emerge just before dusk and are active at night, which can mean your dinner crowd is on the menu. Conducting regular checks for standing water right before the dinner rush is a good way to curtail mosquitoes’ activity near your patio during peak hours.

Health risks mosquitoes pose

Around the world, mosquitoes can transmit multiple dangerous illnesses and diseases to humans. Zika virus is a rare disease that affects pregnant women and may lead to birth defects. The most common symptoms of Zika virus are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis. Zika is spread to humans through Aedes mosquito bites. More common for Canada are West Nile virus and multiple kinds of encephalitis, which can also have severe side effects. Encephalitis causes symptoms of aches and fever and can also cause brain infections. West Nile virus has been found in about 75 mosquito species, most commonly in varying Culex species. 70-80 per cent of those infected with West Nile virus are asymptomatic, but the remaining 20 per cent show signs of fever, vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, body aches and headaches.

Steps to ensure a mosquito-free patio

As mentioned earlier, standing water is the largest attractant for mosquitoes and stopping mosquitoes from breeding is the best way to prevent and control their populations. Regularly checking for and eliminating new puddles is the best first step in preventing swarms of mosquitoes. Avoid overwatering patio potted plants, mosquitoes can breed in over saturated or wet, soggy soil; drain pot saucers every other day, water in these saucers should not stand for more than seven days.

Many mosquito-repellant plants can be strategically potted around dining spaces to keep pests away from diners, as can fans because mosquitoes cannot effectively fly through air currents.

In addition to removing standing water, insecticide products can also be used as a part of an integrated effort to treat mosquito problems. It is important to use only Health Canada-approved mosquito larvicide and adulticides, which your pest management provider can identify in consultation with you. It is important to note that, according to Health Canada, larvicide products should be used in standing water that cannot be emptied, drained, flushed or changed regularly, such as ponds, flower planters and low-lying ground that is susceptible to frequent flooding.

The final option is products that do not control mosquito populations but instead are designed to repel or trap mosquitoes. These are not effective in treating a mosquito problem at the root and should be used in conjunction with other methods. The most effective approach is to eliminate and prevent. Mosquito coils and sprays, as well as bug zappers can help keep mosquitoes out of outdoor dining areas to ensure a mosquito-free meal for guests. Many mosquito-repellant plants can be strategically potted around dining spaces to keep pests away from diners, as can fans because mosquitoes cannot effectively fly through air currents.

Knowing what attracts mosquitoes can help you take the proper steps to promote a pest-free environment for diners. Mosquito populations can grow rapidly when not addressed, so a quick response is critical for elimination and prevention. With small changes or additions to your staff’s routine, wrangling warm-weather pests such as mosquitoes becomes a more manageable task. And remember, being proactive is the best approach for mosquito control. Always consult your pest management provider during routine visits so he or she can help identify the proactive approach that’s best for your restaurant.


Alice Sinia, PhD, is quality assurance manager of regulatory/lab Services for Orkin Canada focusing on government regulations pertaining to the pest control industry. With more than 20 years of experience, she manages the quality assurance laboratory for Orkin Canada and performs analytical entomology as well as provides technical support in pest/insect identification to branch offices and clients. For more information, email Alice Sinia at asinia@orkincanada.com or visit orkincanada.com.


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