If you think flies are pesky, consider the mosquito. For all their despicable, filth-carrying traits, flies only bump into humans accidentally. Mosquitoes, on the other hand, are on a deliberate mission to suck your blood. Even if you donít mind sharing, you risk being infected by a number of disease-causing bacteria and viruses from malaria to West Nile. And donít forget the maddening itch and embarrassing red bumps.
Exasperated people turn to both folklore and scientific research in hopes of evading this predator. Hereís some information Iíve gathered about mosquitoes that you might find helpful:
Know the enemy
There are more than 3,500 types of mosquitoes around the world with about 150 species populating North America. Mosquitoes tend to rest in moist, dark places during the heat of the day and feed at dusk when temperatures are lower and air currents milder. (Mosquitoes do not like dry or windy places.) They feed on plant liquids, like nectar and saps. Only the female of certain species bite humans and other mammals to extract the protein from blood to aid in egg production.
What attracts them
Only a mosquito knows for sure, but research indicates that a female mosquito is attracted to a combination of chemical scents (octenol in particular) from our carbon dioxide-rich exhalation (C02) and perspiration. We all exhale and sweat, but differing body chemistry produces varying amounts of octenol. Commonly marketed mosquito repellants are designed to mask our human chemical odors.
How to avoid being bit
If youíre one of the unlucky ones whom mosquitoes find irresistible, here are tried-and-true measures that keep those blood-suckers at bay:
1. Mask your body scent with DEET spray, Vicks Vaporub or Avonís Skin-So-Soft Bug Repellant. These have been the most effective so far.
2. Cover your body with light-colored clothing. Determined biters will get through so use a chemical cover-up, too.
3. Stay cool, clean and dry. Theyíre attracted to the octenol in perspiration as well as body heat.
4. Chew or suck on peppermint. It masks the octenol in your breath.
5. Put up a mosquito net around your bed.
6. Set up screens around your patio to create a lanai-style living space.
7. Be sure your window screens have no holes.
8. Cover the vents that allow air into your house with mesh.
9. Avoid perfumes that contain octenol or sweet floral scents.
10. Use fragrances that do mask odors and repel mosquitoes like camphor and lavender.
11. Set up fans in as many places as possible (patio, porch, by entrances, barns and stables) to blow away those lithe creatures. Theyíre weak and wispy and canít stand wind.
12. Keep the air around you and in your home as dry as possible. Air-conditioning helps.
13. A indoor house deodorizer can mask human scents.
14. Spray Listerine mouthwash on your porch or deck.
15. Surround your home with mosquito-repelling plants like the mosquito plant, geranium, beautyberry, citronella, juniper, cedar, camphor, lemon thyme, peppermint, eucalyptus, garlic, lavender, rosemary, and basil.
16. Any of the above oils, when rubbed on clothing, will repel mosquitoes too.
Less Effective Measures
These often expensive tools are minimally effective against mosquitoes:
Citronella candles: They work in some areas but not others, presumably due to the different species of mosquitoes.
Bug Zappers: More brands are beginning to add C02 attractors which can increase their effectiveness but while ours did kill some mosquitoes, they didnít keep others from biting us.
Sonic Repellants: Although testimonies say otherwise, laboratory results show these donít work.
Wristbands: These keep mosquitoes from biting your wrist but thatís about all.
Yard sprays: These will kill adult mosquitoes resting on vegetation during the day, but they wear off quickly while contaminating the flora and harming other helpful insects.
Bat Houses: Mosquitoes make up only a fraction of a batís diet. Youíll need a colony of bats for any real effect on the mosquito population. Even then, youíll have to convince them to go for the tiny mosquitoes over the larger, juicier moths and other bugs in the area.
Getting your city government to help
The threat to public health has spurred local governments to address mosquito control more seriously than ever. Call, write or visit your local city vector control department to see what types of measures are being used in your area. Widespread spraying, natural predator releases in public park ponds and resident awareness programs should be in place. If not, ask why. Round up concerned citizens to attend city meetings and put this issue on the agenda.
Flowtron BK-80D 80-Watt Electronic Insect Killer, 1-1/2 Acre Coverage