Preventing and Controlling Mosquitoes
When you think of pests, mosquitoes usually make the top ten list—especially if you live in a humid area or if there bodies of still water nearby. Mosquitoes are more than pests, though. Because they pierce the skin and draw blood from their victims, they carry pathogens and can infect their prey with diseases, viruses and parasites.
What Are Mosquitoes?
Mosquitoes are insects from the gnat family and have been around for 170 million years. After transitioning from egg to larva to pupa, they become adults and live anywhere from four to eight weeks. The transitioning phases vary in time according to the species of the mosquito and the climate.
Male mosquitoes are vegetarians and typically use their piercing mouthparts to extract nectar from plants. Females, other the other hand, feed on both nectar and blood in order to obtain the appropriate nutrients to produce eggs.
What Can a Mosquito Bite Do?
The best case scenario when having been bitten by a mosquito is that you will suffer a small stinging sensation and a small welt. Some people are more sensitive to insect bites and the inflicted site will flare up and need a soothing salve to lessen the severity of the allergy. The reason for the inflammation around the bite is due to a protein in the mosquito’s saliva that prevents the blood from clotting (making it easier for the insect to drink your blood until she is full). It takes several days for the human body to break these proteins down and for the inflammation to disappear.
The West Nile virus has been worrying Americans since 1999, but Malaria affects even more people in third world countries. Other mosquito-related diseases include Dengue and Yellow fevers. They also carry heartworm parasites that can infect your pets.
*Note: the older the mosquito, the more likely it is to carry disease.
Why Are Mosquitoes Attracted to Certain People More Than Others?
Mosquitoes can smell their prey at up to 50 meters away. They are mainly attracted to heat and carbon dioxide. Adults and pregnant women produce more carbon dioxide than children, which makes them more susceptible to mosquito bites. Lactic acid also attracts mosquitoes, so athletes who tend to have higher acid levels in their muscles and exhale more carbon dioxide with exertion have a greater chance of falling prey to mosquitoes.
How to Prevent Mosquitoes
The biggest favor you can do for yourself when trying to control mosquito population is to remove any stagnant water on your property. Because female mosquitoes lay their eggs in still water, this will eliminate the breeding ground. Take a look at your gutters, bird baths, buckets and trashcans. Also, clear dead leaves which offer shelter to sleeping mosquitoes during the day.
*Keep in mind that mosquitoes instinctually breed at the very beginning of their adult life cycle, so it’s important to remove stagnant water that may already have eggs in it. If allowed to hatch and reach adulthood, there isn’t much you can do about the new adults continuing the cycle.
How to Control Mosquitoes
If you can’t get rid of nearby water, such as a backyard pond, mosquito traps can be hung from trees. They emit desirable variables, such as heat and carbon dioxide, which attract female mosquitoes. The trap then captures and/or kills the insect, depending on the brand.
Dragonflies are their natural predators. Planting “Black-eyed Susan” flowers will attract other tiny insects that dragonflies also like to eat, which will increase your population of mosquito-eating dragonflies. Other predators include birds, so consider bird housing near water.
If you know you’re going to be subjected to the pests, either because you’re still in the process of eliminating their breeding ground or because you’re going to be visiting a mosquito-populated area, you can protect yourself with a repellent.
Repellents come in natural and chemical forms, and are proven to be extremely effective at protecting humans from bites. The most effective repellents use one of the following chemicals in the active ingredients: DEET, picaridin and metofluthrin. Metofluthrin is unique in that it is applied to strips that you can either hang around your home or clip to your belt.
Natural solutions include soybean oil-based repellents, but they need to be reapplied every hour and a half. Eucalyptus oil may be a promising alternative as well, but it’s still in the testing phase.
Some people swear by home remedies, which fall under natural and chemical control! These include stuffing a Bounce drier sheet into your pocket, slathering your skin with Avon’s “Skin So Soft” lotion, applying a paste of garlic and water to pulse points and spritzing yourself with a lavender oil and distilled water mixture.
The military uses insecticide infused clothing when sending troops into jungles. These articles of clothing can be purchased at local sporting good stores for the general public.
No matter which prevention and control route you choose, it’s important to make mosquito-elimination a top priority!