Mosquitos are annoying — no, kidding, right? You’re reminded of that every time you try to avoid scratching a bite (and every time you give in to the itchy temptation). However, beyond that incessant itch, mosquitos can be dangerous.
“Mosquitoes cause more human suffering than any other organism — over one million people worldwide die from mosquito-borne diseases every year,” the American Mosquito Control Association says.
Those diseases include malaria, dengue, yellow fever, West Nile virus and Zika virus, among others. Several of these diseases, such as malaria and yellow fever, occur in higher rates in tropical areas of the world. Still, but even people in the U.S. with air conditioning and window screens are not impervious to mosquito-spread diseases.
The fact is mosquitoes are drawn to humans. While the insects also consume plant nectar, fruit juice and other sugary plant liquids, females need blood for every batch of eggs they lay. However, it’s not your blood that helps them find you, but your carbon dioxide.
“A host-seeking mosquito is guided to its skin by following the carbon dioxide emitted when a host exhales,” Mosquito Shield says. “Once they’ve landed, a number of short-range attractants are used by the mosquito to determine if the host can provide an acceptable blood meal.”
To help prevent you from becoming sick, or even just getting itchy, here are five ways to prevent mosquito bites.
Wear protective clothing
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend you wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, particularly if you treat them with permethrin insecticide. You can also treat socks and shoes or boots as well as tents, if you’re camping.
Children should also wear clothing that covers their skin, and you can use netting over a baby’s stroller and crib to prevent mosquito bites.
If you’re too hot to don more than you absolutely have to wear, then consider spray-on protection.
Use mosquito repellant
In case you’re worried about the ingredients in repellant, use one that is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency, which means it has been evaluated for safety and effectiveness.
“Our evaluation includes assuring that the product does not pose risks to vulnerable populations, including children and pregnant women,” the EPA says.
Use the EPA’s online search tool to find the mosquito repellant right for you and your family by specifying what ingredients you do or don’t want to use, how long you need to be protected and other considerations. Additionally, any product registered with the EPA will have a registration number on it, which you can use to search the agency database.
Spray your yard
A barrier spray can mask the CO2 you give off and repel mosquitos from your property. One local company, Mosquito Shield, uses natural oils in its products to create a barrier that lasts for weeks and increases in strength every time it’s sprayed.
Pay attention to areas on your property that may attract mosquitoes, such as a pool or an area with sitting water. Point them out to a pro and ask for advice about the best areas to have sprayed.
Run a fan
This surprisingly simple technique gets results, far more so than a bug zapper (see below). The wind created by electric fans significantly reduces the number of mosquitoes in an area, according to a study in the Journal of Medical Entomology. It isn’t because a mosquito can’t fly in the wind; rather, the wind dilutes anything that attracts mosquitoes.
“We recommend that fan-generated wind should be pursued as a practical means of protecting humans or pets from mosquitoes in the backyard setting,” researchers write.
Skip the zapper
Research shows devices meant to attract and kill bugs don’t make much difference to the mosquito population. In fact, in one study, yards with bug zappers did not have a significantly different number of mosquitoes compared to yards without zappers.
“Ultraviolet bug lights, or ‘zappers’ are relatively ineffective against mosquitoes, who seek light colors, heat, and carbon dioxide, none or which is emitted by zappers,” Mosquito Shield says. “In addition, zappers kill indiscriminately, eliminating insects that are beneficial, as well as those who may feed on mosquitoes.”
The bottom line is, mosquitoes are more attracted to you than to your zapper so use protective clothing, sprays and fans to stay bite-free.
Want to learn more about the best way to keep mosquitos out of your backyard? Visit moshield.com to get some ideas or call 717-532-2660 to schedule a consultation with an expert.