Throughout the year, senior living and care facilities’ outdoor spaces often go unused. This can be because of foul weather, or more often than we like to admit, ever-present pests that sometimes can be a major health threat, especially for those already with weakened immune systems.

Pests can be inconvenient for residents who enjoy being outdoors or even intrusive for those who are trying to obtain much-needed vitamin D. A prime example of such pests is mosquitoes. For many, mosquito season already is in full swing, arriving when spring temperatures encourage us to venture outdoors.

For long-term care facilities in almost any part of the country, residents know all too well the connection between warm temperatures and mosquitoes. With the continued presence of West Nile virus in the United States — a major concern because no treatment, cure or vaccine exists yet — and the possible occurrence of other mosquito-borne disease outbreaks, with the Zika virus being the most recent, spending time outside in the spring and summer months can seem daunting.

Education about mosquitoes and mosquito season is key to combatting the offenders. Executive directors and administrators at long-term care facilities can take steps to protect their residents, visitors and employees.

First, keep an eye out for rising temperatures and the time of year. July through September is peak breeding season for mosquitoes. Although those months often can be the hottest of the year and an unlikely time for residents to be in the sun during the middle of the day, residents may like to be outside during the early morning hours or later in the day when temperatures are cooler – and mosquitoes still are active then.

Executive directors, administrators and staff also still should be aware of the threat of mosquitoes for those who may remain inside but keep their screens, doors and windows open to enjoy the fresh air.

Additionally, peak West Nile virus season typically is August and September, sometimes lasting through October. For cities in the South, where the weather doesn’t cool down until late October or even early November, be aware that mosquitoes still can be present well into the later fall months.  

All mosquitoes may seem to act and look alike, but in reality, there are a variety of types, all with their own dangers. The most common types:

  • Culex mosquitoes are seen throughout the United States and can transmit West Nile virus, bird malaria and St. Louis encephalitis. These predominantly are night biters but also can bite at dusk or dawn.
  • Aedes mosquitoes, commonly known as floodwater mosquitoes, thrive where water levels fluctuate, ranging from salt marshes to artificial containers that collect water such as bird baths, trash, pet watering bowls, etc. They transmit a variety of diseases that affect not just humans but also animals.  These include dengue, Zika and dog heartworm.
  • Anopheles mosquitoes are night-active pests that can spread malaria, dog heartworm and other viruses.

The good news for executive directors and administrators is that ways exist to alleviate the ever-present nuisance and health concerns that this warm-weather insect brings. A few recommendations for reducing and preventing mosquito bites:

  • Eliminate mosquito-friendly breeding conditions by removing or cleaning objects that could hold standing or stagnant water. Clear drainage ditches and clean gutters so the water flows, fix leaky pipes so pools of water do not collect, and change water in bird baths every week.
  • Adult mosquitoes prefer quiet, shady areas with high humidity. Trim shrubbery and other vegetation to reduce these conditions.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing with sleeves and pants – and the lighter their color, the better.
  • Apply EPA-registered insect repellents directly to your skin.
  • Inspect doors and windows for drafts through tears so as not to bring the outdoors inside.
  • Keep doors tightly closed. A propped-open door is a welcome invitation for mosquitoes.

To find out more about pests, including mosquitoes, that may be lurking around your community this summer and all year long, register for the McKnight’s Senior Living webinar on June 5, which will cover the range of pests, what attracts them, common hot spots at senior living communities and other long-term care facilities, and ways to pest-proof your facility.