Keep Your Family Healthy with Your Own War on Mosquitoes

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With the advent of the Zika virus, new attention has been focused on mosquito prevention and control. But Zika isn't the only risk carried in a mosquito bite; they have a long history of transmitting disease. The best mosquito control is to prevent them from breeding. Outside your own house and lawn, mosquito swarms may not be preventable. To make the problem worse, some people seem to be mosquito magnets. So how can we keep mosquitoes away?

WHY ARE MOSQUITOES ATTRACTED TO ME?​

Scientists confirm that some people are more attractive to mosquitoes than others. There are a variety of factors that make you attractive, and unfortunately some of them you can't control. Mosquitoes choose their targets based on smell. Blood type is a factor, as well as whether or not you are a secretor. Secretors are individuals who give off a chemical signal that attracts mosquitoes, no matter which blood type they have.

Mosquitoes also detect carbon dioxide, given off in the breath. Pregnant women and larger people exhale more carbon dioxide and attract more mosquitoes than small children. Mosquitoes are also more attracted to you after exercise when your sweat contains lactic acid and other mosquito attractants. Your skin temperature is higher after exercise, which also attracts them. Skin bacteria may also play a role.

Researchers are not sure why, but drinking beer makes you more attractive to mosquitoes. Even a single beer is enough to make you a mosquito magnet. You might want to choose a different beverage when relaxing outdoors.​

YOUR CHOICE OF CLOTHING MAY BE A FACTOR

Since mosquitoes use their sight to locate their selected victims, people wearing high contrast colors are more easily targeted. Black, dark blue and red clothing seem to attract more mosquitoes. Conversely, choosing the right clothing can make it hard for the mosquito to get to your skin. Long sleeves, long pants, shoes, and socks help ward off mosquitoes. Properly clothed, you only need to spray small areas of skin with insect repellent. Unfortunately, mosquitoes are most active during the summer months when most people tend to wear less clothing, leaving large spans of skin uncovered.

MOSQUITO REPELLENTS

There are a number of mosquito repellents commercially available, but the best one is DEET. DEET doesn't kill mosquitoes, but it does repel them very effectively and the effects last up to 10 hours. You may have concerns about the safety of DEET, but recent a recent study in the medical journal Parasites and Vectors shows that there is "no evidence of severe adverse events" when DEET is used as recommended. While you may not choose to wear DEET at all times, it is a potent weapon when mosquitoes are numerous.

Mosquito repellents including picaridin and IR 3535 are also effective. These ingredients are recognized by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention as "safe and effective". As a bonus, repellents with IR 3535 don't have the strong odor associated with most mosquito repellents.

If you prefer a more natural way to discourage mosquitoes, a study in the Journal of Insect Science found that mosquito repellents containing the essential oil of lemon eucalyptus are almost as effective and long-lasting as DEET. Products containing oil of citronella are also effective but need to be applied more often.

How long your mosquito repellent remains effective depends on the ingredients used and their concentration. Follow the recommended application times and take the bottle with you to reapply if mosquitoes swarm.

PRECENT MOSQUITOES FROM BREEDING

Mosquitoes need standing water to breed. Even a small puddle or forgotten cup of water can become a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Swimming pools are ok since the water is treated, but the water that accumulates in the bottom of a boat, old tires, buckets and trash cans can provide a fertile breeding ground for mosquitoes. Keep your property clear of standing water.

If you have a small depression or pond that collects water on your property and you cannot drain it effectively, you may be able to control mosquitoes with a product containing Bti, a bacterial insecticide. You can find Bti in a small briquette form at your local hardware store. You place the briquette in the water to kill mosquito larvae before they have a chance to grow. Check the product label for suitable use and follow all directions exactly.

USE MOSQUITO FOG FOR CONTROLLING SWARMS OF MOSQUITOES

Your local authorities may fog for mosquitoes to control them, but you can also fog your own property if the mosquitoes are too numerous. There are a wide variety of products available commercially to do the job. You can purchase fogging cans for small areas, but for large yards, you may need to rent or purchase a fogging machine.

Before spraying your yard, close all windows and doors and turn off the air conditioner to avoid bringing the spray into the house. After spraying, stay inside for about an hour to allow the chemicals to disperse. Also, be sure to follow all directions on the fogging product to make sure you are using it in an environmentally safe way.

For best results, apply mosquito fog at dusk on a calm day. Determine the direction of any wind and work with the air flow to avoid having the spray blown back on you. Too much wind will blow the insecticide away before it has a chance to do the job. Start in the most heavily affected area and back away, spraying down wind.

MECHANICAL MOSQUITO CONTROL

There are electric and gas controlled mosquito traps and killers available. An electric mosquito "zapper" is available that uses blue light to attract mosquitoes into a high-intensity electric field where they are electrocuted or zapped. These mosquito zappers are effective against mosquitoes in a small open area such as a patio or backyard.

Mosquito traps are also available that generate small amounts of carbon dioxide to attract mosquitoes into a trap where they cannot escape. These traps are available in both electric and gas models and are effective in open spaces.For best results mosquito zappers and traps should be used continuously to keep the mosquito population down. Don't expect complete elimination of mosquitoes as soon as you turn it on. Set it up in a permanent location and use it consistently to eradicate the mosquitoes in your yard.

For best results use a combination of these methods to keep mosquitoes at bay. You can keep them mostly off your property by eliminating standing water and using a regular fogging campaign, a trap, or zapper. Away from home use mosquito repellant to protect exposed skin and you won't have to worry about Zika or any of the other mosquito-borne diseases.

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