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Use of riprap to dissipate the energy of drainage runoff creates condition favorable for mosquito production.

Managing Mosquitoes in Stormwater Treatment Devices

Section 5: Basic Guidelines for Mosquito Management

Published 2004

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Section 5: Basic Guidelines for Mosquito Management

Dry Systems

This category includes all stormwater treatment devices that are designed to drain completely following a storm event and remain dry. Examples include extended detention (dry detention) basins, vegetated swales, infiltration devices, and media filters.

  • Design structures so they do not hold standing water for more than 72 hours. Special attention to groundwater depth is essential.
  • Incorporate features that prevent or reduce the possibility of clogged discharge orifices (e.g., debris screens). The use of weep holes is not recommended due to rapid clogging.
  • Use the hydraulic grade line of the site to select a treatment BMP that allows water to flow by gravity through the structure. Pumps are not recommended because they are subject to failure and often require sumps that hold water.
  • Design distribution piping and containment basins with adequate slopes to drain fully and prevent standing water. The design slope should take into consideration buildup of sediment between maintenance periods. Compaction during grading may also be needed to avoid slumping and settling.
  • Avoid the use of loose riprap or concrete depressions that may hold standing water.
  • Avoid barriers, diversions, or flow spreaders that may retain standing water.

Systems with Sumps, Vaults, or Basins

This category includes all stormwater treatment devices, except ponds and wetlands, that incorporate features that hold permanent or semipermanent standing water. Sumps, vaults, and basins may be located both above and below ground, but they are particularly common features of belowground proprietary and nonproprietary treatment devices that tie into existing storm sewers. Examples include above- and belowground media filters, oil-water separators, vortex separators, and vault-type devices.

  • Completely seal structures that retain water permanently or longer than 72 hours to prevent entry of adult mosquitoes. Adult female mosquitoes may penetrate openings as small as 1/16 inch (2 mm) to gain access to water for egg laying. Screening can exclude mosquitoes, but it is subject to damage and is not a method of choice.
  • If using covers, they should be tight fitting with maximum allowable gaps or holes of 1/16 inch (2 mm) to exclude entry of adult mosquitoes. The use of gaskets can provide a much more effective barrier when used properly.
  • If the sump, vault, or basin is sealed against mosquitoes, with the exception of the inlet and outlet, submerge the inlet and outlet completely to reduce the available surface area of water for mosquito egg-laying (female mosquitoes can fly through pipes). Alternatively, creative use of flapper or pinch valves, collapsible tubes (Mulligan and Schaefer 1982), and "brush curtains" might be effective for mosquito exclusion in certain designs.
  • Design structures with the appropriate pumping, piping, valves, or other necessary equipment to allow for easy dewatering of the unit if necessary.

Stormwater Ponds and Wetlands

Stormwater ponds and constructed, modified, or restored wetlands that receive runoff and provide stormwater treatment pose a difficult challenge for mosquito control because nearly all produce mosquitoes to some degree. Over time, emergent and shoreline vegetation create habitats conducive to mosquito breeding that may be difficult or even hazardous for mosquito control professionals to access. Hazards increase significantly if proper access (see below) is not provided. If these kinds of structures must be built, it is crucial that appropriate and adequate funds be allocated to support long-term site maintenance as well as routine monitoring and management of mosquitoes by a qualified agency.

The long-term costs, jurisdictional and maintenance conflicts associated with establishment of protected species (United States Fish and Wildlife Service 1999), and legal liability (e.g., H&S Code) associated with these kinds of projects must be evaluated; if any doubt exists, consider alternate treatment devices. For example, feasibility studies of subsurface flow treatment wetlands are currently under investigation and may provide excellent mosquito-free alternatives (see Anonymous 2002).

Long-term management of mosquitoes in stormwater ponds and wetlands should integrate biological control, vegetation management and other physical practices, and chemical control as appropriate. Also, a provision for regular inspection of sites for detection of developing mosquito populations should be included.

Some general guidelines are listed below. Local factors may influence the overall effectiveness of certain approaches for mosquito reduction. Additional information and guidelines are available for surface-flow constructed treatment wetlands and should be consulted (Walton 2003) to ensure that mosquito populations are minimized.

Mosquito Predators and Biological Control

  • Stormwater ponds and wetlands should maintain water quality sufficient to support surface-feeding fish such as mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis), which feed on immature mosquitoes and can aid significantly in mosquito control.
  • If large predatory fish are present (e.g., perch and bass), mosquitofish populations may be negatively impacted or eradicated. In this case, careful vegetation management remains the only nonchemical mosquito control measure.
  • Where mosquitofish are not allowed, careful vegetation management remains the only nonchemical mosquito control measure.
  • Other opportunistic predators such as dragonflies, diving beetles, birds, and bats feed on mosquitoes when available, but their effects are generally not sufficient to preclude chemical treatment. Despite popular beliefs, control of adult mosquitoes by birds (e.g., purple martins) and bats cannot be relied on in lieu of habitat maintenance and chemical control (Kale 1968; Tuttle 2000).


  • Emergent vegetation provides mosquito larvae with refuge from predators, protection from surface disturbances, and increased nutrient availability while interfering with monitoring and control efforts.
  • Perform routine maintenance to reduce emergent plant densities to facilitate the ability of mosquito predators (i.e., fish) to move throughout vegetated areas.
  • Whenever possible, maintain stormwater ponds and wetlands at depths in excess of 4 feet (1.2 m) to limit the spread of invasive emergent vegetation such as cattails (Typha spp.). Deep, open areas of exposed water are typically unsuitable for mosquito immatures due to surface disturbances and predation. Deep zones also provide refuge areas for fish and beneficial macroinvertebrates should the densely vegetated emergent zones be drained.
  • Build shoreline perimeters as steep and uniform as practicable to discourage dense plant growth.
  • Use concrete or liners in shallow areas to discourage unwanted plant growth where vegetation is not necessary.
  • Eliminate floating vegetation conducive to mosquito production (i.e., water hyacinth [Eichhornia spp.], duckweed [Lemna and Spirodela spp.], and filamentous algal mats).


  • Make shorelines accessible to maintenance and vector control crews for periodic maintenance, control, and removal of emergent vegetation, as well as for routine mosquito monitoring and abatement procedures, if necessary.
  • Design and obtain necessary approvals for all stormwater ponds and wetlands to allow for complete draining when needed.

General Access Requirements

Providing adequate and safe access for maintenance activities and for mosquito monitoring and management in stormwater treatment devices cannot be over emphasized. An alarmingly high number of treatment BMPs already exist that were constructed with little or no regard to reasonable access and safety. Examples include basins with 1:1 perimeter slopes, devices with deep sumps or vaults, and covered devices with heavy lids or grates.

  • All stormwater treatment devices should be easily and safely accessible without the need for special requirements (e.g., OSHA requirements for "confined space"). This allows vector control personnel to effectively monitor and, if necessary, abate vectors.
  • If utilizing covers, the design should include spring-loaded or lightweight access hatches that can be opened easily for inspection.
  • Mosquito larvicides are applied with hand-held equipment at small sites and with backpack or truck-mounted high-pressure sprayers at large sites. The effective swath width of most backpack or truck-mounted larvicide sprayers is approximately 20 feet (6 m) on a windless day. Because of these equipment limitations, all-weather road access (with provisions for turning a full-size work vehicle) should be provided along at least one side of large aboveground structures that are less than 25 feet (7.5 m) wide. Structures that have shoreline-to-shoreline distances in excess of 25 feet should have a perimeter road for access to all sides.
  • Access roads should be built as close to the shoreline as possible. Vegetation or other obstacles should not be permitted between the access road and the stormwater treatment device that might obstruct the path of larvicides to the water.
  • Vegetation should be controlled (by removal, thinning, or mowing) periodically to prevent barriers to access.
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[UC Peer Reviewed]

Managing Mosquitoes in Stormwater Treatment Devices, UC ANR Publication 8125
Marco E. Metzger, Vector-Borne Disease Section, California Department of Health Services, Sacramento

Copyright © 2004 The Regents of the University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. All rights reserved.

Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
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