It’s that time of season that the deadliest animals, mosquitoes, are out looking for our blood. How crazy is it that there are over 3,000 species of these blood sucking insects and that they kill 700,000 people annually?!? The good news is only about 200 of the species carry the mosquito-borne diseases we know of like, Zika virus, yellow fever, dengue, chikungunya, West Nile virus, malaria, lymphatic filariasis, and EEE (Eastern Equine Encephalitis). The little female pests use their high tech proboscis to jab us and get our blood for protein to help support their offspring & their saliva helps blood flow easy but makes us itchy! The “Tiger mosquito” or “Ankle Day Biter” Aedes aegypti is the recent species we are concerned with as its known to carry disease and has made its way to America. What can we do to prevent them on us??
- Avoid– This is a tough one for me but it is a way to prevent bites. Most mosquito activity is at dusk and dawn so it is possible to stay inside at these times. I love the summer evenings outside so I may opt for other solutions. Also, they are mostly living in tropical/humid areas so you can avoid traveling to those areas, again not an option I’d prefer. If you do decide to stay indoors they can still get you! So be sure to have windows closed &/or good screens, as well as door screens and block gaps around doors. They are attracted to white lights so you maybe want to switch to yellow lights by the doors. Life in a bubble will prevent bites but that doesn’t sound like good life quality.
- Chemical Repellents– There are two big ones out there, DEET and Picardin. Which one is best? DEET has been around a very long time. Picardin is newer to US since 2005, it’s been in Europe/Australia since 1998. Both are synthetic but Picardin mimics piperine a natural compound found in black pepper. Both are effective at repelling mosquitoes. It’s really about weighing your risks. Chemical vs Mosquito diseases/bites.. it’s a balancing/moderation act. When I choose these chemicals I go with the lower chemical and spray more often, unless I’m traveling to tropics I may opt for higher strength. My go to DEET spray is Cutter Skin Sensations. For Picardin I’d use Sawyer or Natrapel. Permethrin spray can be used on inanimate objects like clothing, shoes, & gear which is a good idea when camping.
- Natural Repellents– There are some options that smell amazing to humans and horrible to mosquitoes so that is the key. My go to are Murphys, Repel and Babyganics, these need to be sprayed at least every 2 hours and used in higher amounts than chemicals. As long as you’re not allergic to the essential oils that’s the active ingredient in these, it just feels right when using on kids or just relaxing outside in twilight hours. Citronella candles and incense tend to help when there is not to much of a breeze (and it is a plus for atmosphere). If you do have a breeze or some wind that is good because mosquitoes are slow/bad flyers even though their wings flap at 300-600 mph! They don’t like wind- so fans are good too. I’ve tried to make my own mosquito repellent but haven’t had much luck with the Pinterest recipes I’ve come across. I haven’t given up, as this seems like a fun challenge. I promise to link or write a blog to share if I find one that works.
- Stagnant water– As we know stagnant water is breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Stagnant water in pet bowls and bird baths should be changed every 2 days. Holes drilled on recycle/trash cans can help drain if water collects in them and gutters should have shield to properly drain water. These Aedes species are pretty scary because they lay eggs so quickly in the tiniest amounts of water, like in a plastic water cap, saucer on potted plants or tin can. Pools can be a huge problem if not treated and ponds as well. There are BTI pellets that can be added to standing water that kill larvae- pretty interesting as it infects them with a bacteria.
- Traps- Doing this research I discovered these and they look pretty cool. Ovitraps lure pregnant mosquitoes and traps the offspring before they can be released. They need to be placed every 25 feet. This actually kills them vs just repelling. Do we want to eliminate them completely? Sometimes it seems that way but crazy to think of the whole food chain and what a nice snack mosquitoes provide for some. Insectacides/pesticides are another option but they are toxic to the environment and people, so lets not.
- Biologic technology– This is super fascinating stuff to consider. With our knowledge of genetics we can alter the mosquitoes to not reproduce. This would lower mosquito population and has already been done in Brazil and shown to reduce mosquito borne diseases. Since its a GMO the US is hesitant to entertain this, particularly Florida where mosquito problem is big issue. It’s something to think about. We have to really weigh it all and again I think its a balancing act. We are told GMOs are bad, but are they always bad in all situations? Maybe mosquitoes are here for population control…