A few weeks ago Bug of the Week buzzed about exploding populations of mosquitoes in soggy parts of the country. Due to a record number of questions about mosquitoes and how to avoid becoming their dinner, Bug of the Week visits mosquitoes again in this episode. To avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, stop the problem at its source. Although a small number of mosquitoes in the mid-Atlantic region occasionally breed in slowly moving streams, the vast majority of mosquitoes require standing water to complete their life cycle. By eliminating standing water sources around your landscape, you will greatly reduce the number of larvae that become biting mosquitoes. Containers that commonly breed mosquitoes include bird baths, watering bowls for outdoor pets, plugged rain gutters, wheel barrows, water filled tires and tire swings, rain barrels, buckets, cans, and unused swimming pools. Reduce populations of larval mosquitoes by eliminating as many sources of standing water as possible. Turn the wheel barrow and buckets upside down so they don’t collect water. Inspect and unplug rain gutters. Empty bird baths and pet bowls at least twice a week in warm weather. Punch a hole in the bottom of the tire swing to allow water to drain. If you have standing water in a low-lying area that cannot be drained or in a rain barrel or unused swimming pool, you can kill mosquito larvae by adding a biologically-based insecticide known as Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis a.k.a. Bti. Fortunately, Bti can be purchased as an easy-to-use product shaped like a doughnut that you simply toss into standing water. If you have an uncovered swimming pool, with proper filtration and disinfection systems, it should not serve as a mosquito breeder. If your pool is covered, and water collects in a non-porous tarp, then mosquitoes may breed in standing rainwater that collects in the cover. You may need to empty the cover regularly or treat it with a larvacide. Learn more about keeping mosquitoes from breeding in your pool at this web site: http://www.co.rockland.ny.us/WNV/pools.htm.
Many species of mosquitoes prefer to feed at dusk and you can avoid being bitten by staying indoors in the evening. Unlike many of our native mosquitoes, the exotic Asian tiger is a sneaky daytime biter, adding hours of itching, scratching, and swatting to days in the garden. Protect yourself from aggressive biters by wearing light-weight, long-sleeved shirts and pants when working outdoors. You can purchase clothing pretreated with the mosquito repellent permethrin. I have worn this clothing in tropical rainforests where mosquitoes were ferocious and it really did help. Many insect repellents can be applied to exposed skin before you go outdoors. Some will provide many hours of protection, while others provide virtually none. The “gold standard” of mosquito repellents is the compound DEET. Higher percentages of DEET in a product generally result in greater levels and duration of protection. However, surveys indicate that some people avoid using DEET for a variety of reasons. In recent years many botanically-based products have come to the marketplace. Scientists discovered that wild tomato produces a compound, 2-undecanone, and created a product which prevents mosquitoes from landing on humans as effectively as DEET in field trials. Other products containing oils extracted from lemon eucalyptus, Corymbia citriodora, and products combining oils of soybean, geranium, and caster bean protected people from mosquito bites as effectively as products containing DEET in field trials. Products based on citronella and other essential oils derived from plants vary greatly in repellency with average protection times ranging from 5 minutes to 2 hours. So, you may have to apply these products more frequently to be protected. Questions always arise regarding the use of repellents on children. Repellents carry precautionary statements on their labels. Always read the label carefully and follow directions and precautions exactly. You should help children apply repellents and consult a pediatrician before applying any product to the very young. Some products state not to let children handle the product and even some botanically-based products warn against use on kids under the age of 3.
One trick to help keep skeeters at bay during outdoor entertaining is to place a fan or two on the patio or deck where people dine or relax. The light breeze created by the fan will cool you and your guests and reduce the number of mosquitoes flying and biting. Mosquitoes do not fly or navigate well in a breeze. Questions arise regarding devices that drive away mosquitoes using sound. According to web sites listed below, there is no scientific evidence to support this claim. Likewise, there is not evidence to support the notion that eating garlic, bananas, or vitamin – B will repel mosquitoes. What has been demonstrated is that people do differ in their attractiveness to mosquitoes. It is possible that certain foods or physiological conditions could alter the attractiveness of a person to mosquitoes. One friend who was a mosquito magnet recently became pregnant and now swears that she has lost her meal appeal to mosquitoes – lucky girl. Finally, many folks are surprised to hear that only the female mosquito bites or, technically, sucks blood from humans. No, this is not some gender based grudge or affirmation of girl power. The ladies simply need the protein found in blood to produce eggs that hatch into delightful mosquito larvae. The guys just need energy to keep up with the gals and their primary foods are carbohydrates found in nectar from flowers.
We thank Patty Neger, courageous Chris Cuomo, and Tara Boyle for providing the inspiration for this Bug of the Week. We also thank the crew at Insect Control Research for providing blood thirsty mosquitoes for this episode.
To get Good Morning America’s take on smacking down mosquitoes, please visit the following web site: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=8089789&page=1
Several interesting articles were consulted for this episode, including “Laboratory evaluation of mosquito repellents against Aedes albopictus, Culex nigripalpus, and Ochlerotatus triseriatus (Diptera: Culicidae)” by Donald R. Barnard and Rui-De Xue, “Plant based repellents” by Sarah Moore, Annick Lenlet, and Nigel Hill, and “Novel Arthropod Repellent, BioUD, Is an Efficacious Alternative to DEET” by B.E. Witting-Bissinger, C.F. Stumpf, K.V. Donohoe, C.S. Apperson and R.M. Roe.
To learn more about the mosquitoes and how to defeat them, please visit the following web sites: