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Handout: Rain Gardens and Mosquitoes

Handout: Rain Gardens and Mosquitoes

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Published by Morris County NJ

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Published by: Morris County NJ on May 11, 2012
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Rain gardens are one o many sustainable or low impact development practices used to treat stormwater runo,oten reerred to as “green inrastructure”. Rain gardenstreat stormwater as a resource; as opposed to the moreconventional approach where stormwater treatment included removing stormwater as quickly as possiblerom the landscape and directing it to the nearest  water body. By denition, a rain garden is a shallow,landscaped depression that acilitates the inltration o stormwater runo rom impervious suraces, conning it while it allows or slow percolation into the groundover 24-48 hours. This seepage o the stormwater runo allows the physical settling out o sediment and adsorption o some nutrients such as phosphorus.Nutrient concentrations are reduced through biologicaland chemical processes as plants have the opportunity to uptake nutrients. The plants in this depression areaare selected based on their ability to withstand being inundated with standing water or a period o time;however, it is also this ponding area which can causeconcerns regarding mosquito production.Because rain gardens are oten a relatively inexpensiveand easy-to-install solution to residential stormwater runo, they have become a dominant orm o “greeninrastructure” in many areas o the nation. Raingardens can help to reduce stormwater runo by asmuch as 99 percent by redirecting the water into thegarden. Some rain garden studies show stormwater runo percolates even in cold and snowy situations.Mosquito control agencies have been addressing serious health problems, real and potential, or morethan a century and have raised concerns regarding theprolieration o intentional small bodies o standing  water. Rain garden advocates and those perorming mosquito control cross paths because rain gardensmay temporarily hold water thereby creating potentialmosquito larval habitat. A search o internet resourcesreveals varying guidance as to the sae amount o timea rain garden can take to drain beore its benets to thelandscape create unwanted mosquito habitat.
Mosquito Facts
 There are over 3000 mosquito species worldwide, 63 o  which are ound in New Jersey. Each mosquito speciesbehaves dierently and has a slightly dierent liecycle. The one common trait shared by all mosquitospecies is that their immature stages (larvae) start in water o some kind. Only emale mosquitoes bite,males are incapable o biting. Females bite to acquireblood which is used to produce eggs. It is important tonote that not all species o emale mosquitoes bite assome can produce eggs without blood. For nutritionboth male and emale mosquitoes will eed on fower nectar, plant sap or other sugary substances; bloodis not ood or adult mosquitoes. Depending on thespecies, a mosquito can travel 20 miles or more or ablood meal. Humans are not the only source o bloodor mosquitoes, some mosquito species seek out birds,
Rain Gardens and Mosquitoes
Fact Sheet FS1175
Patricia R. Rector, Environmental and Resource Management Agent, Morris/Somerset CountiesTeresa Duckworth, Wetlands Specialist, Morris County Mosquito CommissionChristopher C. Obropta, Extension Specialist, Water Resources
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey 88 Lipman Drive, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8525Phone: 848.932.5000
Cooperative Extension
Fig. 1Fig. 2Fig. 3
reptiles, amphibians or various other mammals. Whilemost o us think o mosquitoes as a nuisance, they alsotransmit diseases such as West Nile virus (WNV), dog heartworm, eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), malariaand many, many others.Mosquitoes use a variety o habitats in which to lay their eggs. Some common mosquito habitats areswamps, water-lled tree holes, ornamental ponds,puddles, catch basins, stormwater acilities, gutters,and tires – literally any container that can catch andhold water. Mosquito larvae are generally not ound inast moving streams or in the open areas o ponds andlakes.Mosquito control in New Jersey is based on the concept o Integrated Pest Management and is generally conducted at the county level with input rom theOce o Mosquito Control Coordination and the StateMosquito Control Commission. Mosquito controlprograms utilize education, water management,biological control and regulated pesticides. Mosquitopesticides can be divided into two classes, those that kill larvae (larvicides) and those used to kill adults(adulticides). All individuals applying pesticides or proessional mosquito control agencies in New Jersey are trained and licensed to perorm these activities.
Mosquito Life Cycle
 A mosquito goes through complete metamorphosis;egg, larva, pupa and adult (Fig. 4). The rst three stagesare spent in water. Some mosquito species deposit groups o eggs known as rats, while others deposit eggs individually. Some must deposit their eggs directly on the water’s surace while others can deposit them inmoist areas where they may be inundated with water at a later time. Most eggs hatch in 24-48 hours but otherscan sit dormant or years beore hatching. Once theeggs hatch, larvae go through our stages or ‘instars’,molting between each stage. In general mosquito larvaelter eed on suspended organic material but a ew areactually predators and will eat other organisms in their environment. Larval mosquito growth is dependent on ood availability and temperature. Generally the warmer the water the aster the mosquito proceedsthrough its growth cycle. The ourth larval stage moltsinto a pupa which contains the orming adult. The pupadoes not eed but is mobile and has a characteristic ‘C’ shape. The pupal stage can be as short as two days. When the adult is ormed in the pupa, the pupal skinsplits at the water’s surace and the adult slowly orcesitsel out, resting temporarily on the surace beoretaking fight. In the warmest weather a mosquito canproceed rom egg to adult in 5-7 days.
Locating Larvae
I water remains ater 72 hours, the rain garden shouldbe checked or mosquito larvae. In the early stages o development mosquito larvae are dicult to spot withan untrained eye. As the larvae grow larger and begintransorming into pupae, it is usually possible to spot them with the naked eye. The small vertical larvae willcome to the surace o the water to breathe. The larvaecan also be seen “wriggling” in the water while the‘C’ shaped pupae is usually ound “bouncing” along just beneath the surace o the water (Fig 3.). To check or larvae use a white cup or container to scoop someo the water out o the rain garden to provide a clear background while checking the water or mosquitoes(Fig. 1). I requested, the local mosquito control agencmay be able to come and inspect your rain garden or mosquito larvae as well.
Keeping Your Rain Garden Mosquito Free
 The best way to keep a rain garden mosquito-ree isto accept the potential or it becoming a mosquitohabitat and design, build, and maintain the raingarden accordingly. A problem can occur when raingardens are sited improperly, poorly constructed, or not maintained properly. Rain gardens should be designedand constructed to drain completely within 72 hoursto avoid standing water and potential mosquito larvalhabitat. As with any stormwater eature, i water does not drain away completely within 72 hours,mosquitoes may have time to complete their lie cycle.Rutgers Water Resources Program suggests 48 hours tomaintain a margin o saety. A rain garden that is sited, installed and maintained inthe recommended manner will most likely not becomemosquito habitat. Rutgers Water Resources Program(WRP) Fact Sheets, guidance and training oer 
Fig. 4

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