Summer Sabotage: The Lowdown On Mosquito Bites

Summer Sabotage: The Lowdown On Mosquito Bites

Unfortunately, mosquitoes are a consequence of summer and many an outdoor gathering has been ruined by swarms of the pesky buggers, leaving everyone in attendance itchy. 

Mosquitoes are not only annoying, they’re dangerous: the biting bugs can carry disease that are scary and dangerous to humans. So, how can you best protect you and your family? Here, we break down some of the myths and reveal the truth behind repelling mosquitoes.

FACT: A Lot Of Things That Say They Keep Mosquitoes Out Of Your Yard Don’t Actually Work

There are piles of products you can buy that claim to help get rid of mosquitoes, but the truth is, almost none of them work. Citronella candles are generally regarded as a good way to keep mosquitoes out of your area, but researcher shows they are only effective for the first THREE minutes after lighting them. After that, they do absolutely nothing to to deter the bugs, and in fact some experts argue that they will actually attract mosquitoes. Bug zappers are also pretty much a non-starter because mosquitoes aren’t particularly attracted to them. 

The only really effective bug repellent is bug spray that you use on your skin, clothing, and some camping gear (more on this below). Anything that promises to keep mosquitoes away from your yard is too good to be true. If you want to cut down on the number of mosquitoes on your property, the best thing you can do is eliminate any standing water. This includes checking your gutters, emptying trash bins, making sure drainage ditches are actually draining, and removing water from pots, swimming pool covers, birdbaths, and other sources.

FICTION: Mosquitoes Only Track You By Your Smell

There’s a reason why mosquitoes have managed to stick around so long: they are resourceful little members of the natural world. If the pests only tracked you by your smell, it would be relatively easy to cover that up with something, but, unfortunately, Mosquitoes use a host of different things to locate any exposed skin near them, and some aggressive types will even bite through a layer of clothing to get to you. 

Mosquitoes employ several different tactics to hunt. First, they can track you via the carbon dioxide you release when you breath. Next, they can smell you and any odors you may have on your body (pleasant or other). Third, in low-light, they can detect motion well, alerting them to you presence. Lastly, they can sense body heat, which is why they’re so good at finding a biting spot even if you’re mostly covered up. 

FACT: DEET Is The Best Chemical For Keeping Mosquitoes Away

DEET is pretty much a dirty word for a lot of people, but time and time again, it proves to be the most effective way to prevent mosquito bites. DEET has been used safely for the past fifty years, and most of the adverse reactions to DEET have come from improper usage. 

There are many products containing DEET available, but the most effective concentration seems to be 30%, which is available in several Off! and Repel products. Anything higher than 45% doesn’t increase protection, but lower concentrations are less effective and need to be reapplied more often. The American Association of Pediatricians has said that DEET is safe to use on children older than 2 months, but that parents should apply the product to their own hands and then to their children, to avoid kids putting DEET covered fingers into their mouths.

There are two other chemicals that show promise: Picaridin and IR3535. In studies, Picaridin preformed just as well as DEET; however, currently in the US you can only buy it in products with up to a 10% concentration. This does not make it less effective, it just means you have to reapply it more often. IR3535, on the other hand, has had mixed results in testing, but has been used in the European market for over 20 years. If you’re concerned about DEET’s reputation, you might want to seek out one of these alternative formulations.

If you absolutely refuse to use a chemical bug spray, the ONLY natural alternative that has proven efficacy is lemon eucalyptus, but it must be a product that uses it in a high concentration like Repel Plant Based Lemon Eucalyptus. It’s important to note, however, that lemon eucalyptus do not protect against ticks, only mosquitoes. You may also want to look into specially treated pieces of clothing that have been proven to keep the bugs at bay. At least that way, the chemicals are on your clothes and not you. 

FICTION: Mosquitoes Are Just As Bad As They’ve Always Been

While mosquitoes have plagued humans throughout history, they’re actually getting worse thanks to global warming. The increase in rain means more standing water, which leads to more places for the prolific pests to breed. As an added bonus, longer periods of temperate climates instead of cold weather means that mosquitoes will be active for longer. 

The worst periods for mosquitoes right now are late spring and early summer, but the danger zone is increasing as our climate changes. The worst parts of the day for encountering mosquitoes are dawn and dusk, so if possible, try to stay indoors during those times. 

FACT: Only Female Mosquitoes Bite

This one may sound like an old wives tale, but it’s absolutely true! The females need the blood nourishment to lay their eggs, which the male mosquitoes normally stick to pollinating flowers and eating nectar. So, if you do suffer from any bites this summer, you only have the females to blame.