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Skeeter season arrives with bad mosquitoes, West Nile Virus

Don't make a home for disease-carrying pests; take precautions

Overwatering a vegetable garden can result in small ditches filled with standing water.

Overwatering a vegetable garden can result in small ditches filled with standing water. Kathy Morrison

No matter the temperature, it’s time for long sleeves and pants – especially if you’re outside at dawn or dusk.

June is the start of mosquito season in Sacramento, and this week’s news is not good. The first mosquito sample of the season tested positive for West Nile Virus, a potentially deadly disease.

The Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District took the sample in the city of Isleton. A second sample from Sacramento (zip code 95833) also tested positive.

“As we expected, the very warm weather we’ve had recently increased the number of mosquitoes and accelerated virus activity,” said district manager Gary Goodman in an official statement. “It’s important for residents to take these findings seriously and do everything they can to protect themselves.”

So far, four dead birds – two scrub jays, a magpie and a crow – in Sacramento County have tested positive for West Nile including two just before Memorial Day weekend. Those two were collected near Florin Road in south Sacramento in zip code 95828. The other dead birds were found in 95829 and 95833.

Last year in California, there were 225 confirmed human cases of West Nile, including 15 fatalities, says the district.

In response to the positive samples and dead birds, the district increased trapping and monitoring around Isleton and Sacramento in an effort to pinpoint where mosquitoes may be breeding. Targeted ground spraying may be used to quickly kill breeding adult mosquitoes.

Goodman urged residents to take proper precautions – including long sleeves and pants when mosquitoes are most active. And the use of insect repellent.

“Summer is around the corner and as more people enjoy outdoor activities it’s important to remember that the best protection against mosquito bites is an effective insect repellent,” said Goodman. Residents also are encouraged to report dead birds, neglected pools and other mosquito problems by calling the district hotline at 1-800-429-1022.

In the meantime, don’t give mosquitoes a place to call home. Empty any standing water that may have accumulated around your home in such spots as flower pots and saucers, kids’ toys or old tires. Make sure screens on doors and windows are snug.
Sacramento and Yolo county residents can receive email notifications of upcoming mosquito treatments for their neighborhoods. The listings are available by zip code.

To get on the mailing list as well as the latest mosquito news, go to www.FIGHTtheBITE.net.

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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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