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How to Stop Mosquitoes Biting

Updated on July 12, 2015
Just one bite is all it takes
Just one bite is all it takes

The most deadly ­animal in the world is so small it can fit on your finger tip. The tiny mosquito is responsible for millions of deaths each year through the spread of diseases like malaria, dengue fever, and West Nile virus. By comparison, sharks, snakes, and lions combined only kill about fifty thousand people every year.

The majority of deaths are due to malaria (1 million each year) however mosquitoes are known carriers of at least 30 other arboviruses. Unfortunately some of the worst diseases have no medications to treat, or vaccines to prevent infection.

Most experts consider repellents the #1 weapon
Most experts consider repellents the #1 weapon

(1) The Number One Weapon - Repellents

Most experts would consider repellents the number one weapon against mosquitoes, and Deet the best thing out there. The U.S. Department of Agriculture developed Deet in the 1940s for use by the military and it was registered for public use in 1957. Since it hit consumer shelves it has been used billions of times with fewer than 50 reported cases of serious side effects. Today roughly one third of Americans use DEET-based products and it repeatedly tops the competition in efficacy studies.

For those who don't like Deet, there are alternative products like BugBand which is one of the best selling naturally derived insect repellents in the U.S. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control also recommends repellent products containing, Picaridin (Cutter), Oil of Lemon of Eucalyptus or PMD (Repel) and IR3535 (Avon Skin So Soft).

According to Dave Andrews, the Environmental Working Group’s Senior Scientist, the key is repeated use of a product that contains a low percentage of the active ingredient. “The percentage doesn't affect the efficacy, but it does affect how long the product lasts,” he said. “Generally, you’re better off with a lower percentage: No higher than 30% and lower for children, to be on the safe side.”

(2) Aim the Fan

Outsmarting mosquitoes with a fan is a little known strategy. However the method is endorsed by the American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA), a nonprofit group based in Mount Laurel, N.J.

Mosquitoes are relatively weak fliers,” according to the AMCA, “so placing a large fan on your deck can provide a low-tech solution.” The group says mosquitoes fly slowly — from roughly 1 to 1.5 miles per hour, depending on the species.

p.s. this works on biting midges (no-see-ums) who are also weak fliers.

(3) Mosquito Nets - Bedroom Buzz Off!

It's midnight when you hear it and you're instantly awake. That high pitched drone (halfway between a buzz and a whine) is unmistakable.

Understandably not everyone likes wearing eau de D'eet to bed, so if you don't want your nights continually interrupted, invest in some screens, shutters or mosquito netting to create skeeter-free zones in and around your home. A mosquito net offers protection against mosquitoes, flies, and other biting insects, and thus against the diseases they may carry. Mosquito nets can also be treated with Permethrin, one of the world's safest and most widely-used insect control products, to kill any mosquitoes that land on them. Studies have shown that permethrin-impregnated bed nets are more effective than untreated ones.

Beat the buzz AND the bite and turn your bedroom into a boudoir with some fabulous mosquito netting.

(4) Dressed to thrill

Debating what to wear for that night out on the deck? Mosquitoes are attracted to dark colors, especially black and dark navy; so keep it neutral, long and loose.

A study by researchers at Iowa State University comparing the appeal of various hues to mosquitoes, reported the following results: black (most attractive); red (very attractive); grey and blue (neutral); khaki, green, light khaki, and yellow (less attractive).

So ladies, keep your LBD for indoor use only.

(5) No Sweat - Walk, Don't Run!

According to the American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA), physical activity ups the risk for bites by as much as 50%.

Both the carbon dioxide we exhale and substances in sweat, such as lactic acid, attract mosquitoes. You’re more likely to be bitten if you’re running or exercising than when you’re at rest, simply because you’re breathing harder and sweating more.

(6) Keep Lawns Mowed

Keep bushes trimmed, debris out of the gutters and grass mown, throughout the mosquito season. These DIY mosquito control measures will eliminate some of the most popular mosquito breeding places around your yard!

Excess activity can make you more of a mosquito magnet because as we know mosquitoes are attracted to sweat. The hotter, stinkier and sweatier you are, the more likely you'll be attacked. Seems like an excellent reason for a ride-on mower!

(7) Socks On

If you get more bites on your legs and ankles than anywhere else, your smelly feet may be to blame. A Dutch researcher found that mosquitoes use foot odors to guide them to the best biting places.

Bart Knols, sat in his underwear under a mosquito net, while mosquitoes were allowed in one at a time to bite him. Three-quarters of the mosquitoes went straight for his feet. His team also reported that stinky cheeses, such as Limburger also attracts mosquitoes.

To avoid the bites, wash your feet with an anti-bacterial soap and keep your socks on!

Mosquito dunks are deadly to mosquito larvae but harmless to other living things
Mosquito dunks are deadly to mosquito larvae but harmless to other living things

(8) Water wise

Health officials advise homeowners to regularly check for and eliminate standing, stagnant water as this provides prime breeding sites for mosquitoes. Water in birdbaths for instance should be changed weekly.

If you live in the country and have livestock or horses, using larvicides like mosquito dunks in the water troughs is recommended. Mosquito Dunks and similar products containing the natural insecticide Bti actually do live up to their promise. They'll start killing mosquito larvae within a day after you drop them in the water. They contain a bacterium that's deadly to mosquito larvae but harmless to other living things and should be replaced every 30 days.

However dunks don't kill adult mosquitoes. They kill larvae, but adults will still fly in from other untreated areas like birdbaths rain barrels etc or if you live near acres of swampland

Propane & Pesticide Free Mega-Catch ULTRA mosquito trap
Propane & Pesticide Free Mega-Catch ULTRA mosquito trap

(9) Mosquito Traps AKA Fatal Attraction

Mosquito Traps are designed to attract, trap and then kill mosquitoes. A number of the more well known brands include Skeeter-Vac, Mosquito Magnet® and the Mega-Catch™ Trap.

Skeeter-Vac and Mosquito Magnet® traps use propane to produce a continuous stream of carbon dioxide (CO2) to lure and kill mosquitoes. However, some experts believe that these devices generate such great amounts of CO2 that there's a risk of attracting mosquitoes that wouldn't be there in the first place.

Mega-Catch™ traps employ a wide range of sensory stimuli including heat, light, movement and odor to attract mosquitoes. Their top of the line ULTRA trap comes CO2 ready with a patented 'Variable Quantity Slow CO2 Gas Release System'. Operation of the gas attractant system, which is entirely optional, enables the traps to mimic human/animal respiration by releasing small quantities of CO2 into the air plume. This system seems to address the criticism leveled at other traps regarding over-production of CO2.

"For the most part, these products do what they claim", says AMCA technical adviser Joseph Conlon about mosquito traps. "These companies are really serious about it and are backing it with sound science".(The Gazette, Jul 12, 2004)

Help Break The Cycle
Help Break The Cycle

(10) An integrated DIY approach

While it may sound daunting, we can all make a difference in our own back yards by following the basics which include the four "Ds" of mosquito control according to medical entomologist Dr Mark Johnsen:

* Drain - dump, clean or cover all containers that can hold water for more than three days

* Dusk and Dawn - avoid outdoors during periods of peak mosquito activity

* Dress - wear loose-fitting, light-colored, long sleeved shirts and pants

* DEET - use mosquito repellents that contain the active ingredient DEET during outdoor activities

A DIY approach to mosquito control should also include daily trapping during the mosquito season. This will interrupt breeding cycles, dramatically reducing mosquito populations and even the number of eggs hatching - a single female mosquito can lay thousands of eggs during her lifetime.

While there is no one item or solution, a proactive approach and combination of techniques will ultimately be the best way to help control mosquitoes and provide protection from these invasive, disease-carrying pests.

Helpful Resources

Mosquitoes and Mosquito Diseases
Mosquitoworld offers a comprehensive mosquito control guide all about mosquitoes; what they are, how they feed, why they bite and most importantly, how to get rid of them.

American Mosquito Control Association
AMCA® is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to providing leadership, information and education leading to the enhancement of public health and quality of life through the suppression of mosquitoes.


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