Jean Kuehn, UM Extension Master Gardener in Anoka County
We have waited so long to feel the warmth of the sun on our winter white faces; it seems contrary to cover ourselves from the sun’s rays. But please, be smart when you head out to the garden and wear a wide-brimmed hat and use sunscreen. Sure, you only plan to be out there for a short time---and two hours later you are still outside in the glorious sunshine. You strive to grow beautiful flowers, and make everything you grow just perfect---give yourself some of that attention—you’re worth it.
There are other concerns. The media is focusing on the mosquito-transmitted Zika virus because of the upcoming Olympics in Brazil. Few of us will be traveling to Brazil, but want to know what our risks are here at home. Entomologist Jeffrey Hahn at the University of Minnesota Extension office has written on the Zika virus as it might affect us.
The good news is that right now the threat of Zika here in Minnesota is negligible. Hahn writes that Zika has not been found in any US State thus far. Unfortunately, the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti, that carries Zika, does reside in some areas of the southern and eastern states. The Asian tiger mosquito is also believed to transmit Zika, but it too is not in Minnesota. If you are staying in this area and not traveling abroad, your risk ofZika is minimal.
Protect yourself from all mosquitoes as you would normally. There is a risk of other mosquito-transmitted diseases in Minnesota such as West Nile fever. If you are taking small children outside in strollers, use mosquito netting that is readily available at stores selling baby supplies. It also works for adult people who like to sit outside and read or watch kids ball games.
In my mind, tick-transmitted Lyme disease is a more real issue here in Minnesota. Crow Wing County is considered the epicenter for the deer ticks that spread Lyme disease. The tick season is in full swing, so use protection. Sprays with deet are good, and ones with permethrin are very good against ticks. Do NOT spray permethrin on your skin; spray it only on your outer clothing and boots. I have a special set of pants and a shirt dedicated for this treatment that I wear in tick-likely areas. Do tick checks when you come inside. The deer tick is quite a bit smaller than the ususal wood tick; take note of what ticks you are finding.
Enjoy your gardens and just being outside, knowing that we share the space with other creatures that we do not enjoy. For your own peace of mind, accept it and deal with it, using sprays carefully and reasponsibly when really needed. For more information see: http://blog-yard-garden-news.extension.umn.edu/2016_05_01_archive.html, http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/insects/find/tick-borne-diseases-in-minnesota/ and http://blog-yard-garden-news.extension.umn.edu/2013/06/protect-yourself-from-mosquitoes.html