Summer is on its way, which means so are mosquitoes. The flying pests invade neighborhoods like an army, but they aren’t just a backyard nuisance with bites that itch. They also can carry dangerous diseases, including West Nile virus and Zika.
Most regions of the U.S. have issues with mosquitoes, but knowing prevention and mitigation measures can stop them from mushrooming into a big problem, says Dr. Craig Stoops (www.mosquito-authority.com), a retired U.S. Navy medical entomologist and chief science officer at Mosquito® Authority, a mosquito control company.
“People are unfortunately attractive to mosquitoes,” Dr. Stoops says, “but there are numerous ways we can avoid the irritation and the potential danger of a bite. So much has to do with preparing your property and knowing how mosquitoes thrive.
“Some people are more susceptible to bites than others. Mosquitoes can be attracted to different chemicals found in human skin. But just because mosquitoes are an inevitable part of summer doesn't mean you’re defenseless.”
Dr. Stoops offers five tips on reducing the appearance of mosquitoes and their bites:
• Consider a professional service. Sometimes people prefer to do it themselves when it comes to fixing home issues, but they later find that a persistent problem is often better left to trained professionals. “Companies that specialize in mosquito control can effectively address the problem by implementing an entire program over a period of time, including follow-ups,” Dr. Stoops says. “There is a science and strategy to a program, and it requires considerable knowledge of how to treat different types of yards in different regions of the country. A good company in this industry continually educates its people as well as the consumers on how to effectively stay ahead of the problem.”
• Get rid of standing water. Still water is a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. Common places of standing water include: clogged drain gutters, corrugated drain pipes, bird baths, pet bowls, planters, trash and recycling bins, children’s toys, and kiddie pools. “It is important to remain vigilant and remove any containers and debris from your yard to lower the habitats available to mosquitoes,” Dr. Stoops says. “A mosquito needs only about a tablespoon of water to lay eggs.”
• Use safe repellents. Repellents registered by the Environmental Protection Agency have been reviewed and approved to pose minimal risk when used properly. “Some of the most effective ingredients commonly referred to in a repellent are DEET, Picaridan, and oil of lemon eucalyptus,” Dr. Stoops says. EPA-approved repellents provide up to two hours of protection.
• Dress appropriately. “Studies have shown that some mosquitoes are more attracted to dark clothing,” Dr. Stoops says. “Avoid wearing lightweight, thin materials, which mosquitoes can bite right through. Instead, opt for tightly woven materials, like cotton, denim, nylon, or windbreaker-type materials, which are more difficult for the bugs to penetrate. Clothing that provides UV protection is typically tightly woven and often protects against insect bites, too.”
• Keep your landscape clean. “Trimmed trees and shrubs improve a property's air circulation,” Dr. Stoops says. “The increased air flow will physically push mosquitoes out of that area and remove the environment they thrive in. Also, there are some gardening choices that can deter mosquitoes: basil, lavender, and catnip are all plants that mosquitoes don’t like.”
“Many people just think of bug spray during mosquito season,” Dr. Stoops says. “The main idea should be to keep them out of your yard as much as possible. From there, considering summer is the time to get away, always prepare for your environment, especially if hiking or camping.”
About Dr. Craig Stoops
Dr. Craig Stoops (www.mosquito-authority.com), LCDR (ret.) MSC USN, is a retired U.S. Navy Medical Entomologist and chief science officer at Mosquito® Authority, a mosquito control company. He has conducted mosquito control and research in the United States, South and Central America, Southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East. He has a B.S. in biology from Shippensburg University and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Entomology from Clemson University. Dr. Stoops is board certified by the Entomological Society of America in Medical and Veterinary Entomology.