Mr. Rini with his kerosene-powered homemade mosquito control traps.
Photo courtesy of Niki Rini
When the Frenchmen started to build the Panama Canal, they were defeated by a tiny but formidable opponent: the Anopheles mosquito, which had (and continues to have) a habit of carrying malaria. It turned out that the French actually brought the trouble to their doorstep; aesthetics demanded that they have a moat around their cottage, which was unfortunately a perfect breeding place for this mosquito.
The United States moved in and soon scientists were dispatched to study the Anopheles mosquito. Since the only light available for night work in 1902 was from kerosene lamps, there was quite a bit of that fuel around. And when a drop of it accidentally fell into a jar of larvae, they died in a matter of five minutes. Flash! How to treat these mosquitoes was discovered.
When the U.S. Corp of Engineers sprayed the swamps with kerosene, mosquito control was well under way and fairly complete.
During World War II, I was a malaria control officer in Panama. We treated ponds in the early 1940s the same way I treat mosquitoes today, with kerosene.
A group of fertilized mosquito eggs, or a raft, looks like a burnt melon seed and hatches out in three days. The hatched larvae are organic feeders for seven days and then pupate into pupae, which do not feed. Three days later, the adult emerges from the pupae.
We have 24 rain barrels for watering our garden. To be on the safe side, I interrupt this life cycle in our barrels with two teaspoons of kerosene per barrel, or one teaspoon per five gallon bucket and stir it up to make a very thin film of oil on the surface. I treat these containers every seven days and kill millions of mosquitoes in the process.
Remember, the larvae are organic feeders. In clear water, they will eat each other. Only a few adults will emerge from the 100 eggs per raft. The mosquito knows this and chooses dirty water to lay its eggs. The eggs are bright yellow when first laid, but turn black with the morning daylight. In dirty water, 100 eggs will emerge from a raft of eggs.
Invite the mosquito to come to your trap by setting out a container of dirty water and treat it according to these instructions. A note of warning: If you fail to treat your trap consistently, you will be raising mosquitoes. Use dirt, garbage, etc., to make an enticing trap. You will probably enjoy studying these insects and might encourage your children to do the same. The kerosene evaporates overnight and mosquitoes can use your trap the next evening.