It’s summer, which means outdoor activities are king. Camping, biking, swimming, mountain-climbing, fishing, and all other outdoor activities are a lot of fun in the summer. Unfortunately, humans are not the only creature that likes the summer! Mosquitoes also really enjoy this time of year.
I am one of those lucky people mosquitoes love. According to Web MD, your genetics account for 85 percent of why some people get bit more than others (thanks great-grandma!).
Studies have shown that mosquitoes are attracted to about 400 different things, but are more likely to attack individuals with a high concentration of cholesterol on the skin, a high concentration of uric or lactic acid, and people who produce a lot of carbon dioxide and heat. That is why you are more likely to get bitten if you are exercising than if you are sitting still (unless you are me).
Conditions that Make Mosquitoes Outbreaks Worse
Mosquitoes are more likely to be present in warmer climates. Mosquitoes can survive in temperatures over 50 degrees. If a region never falls below 50 degrees, mosquitoes can be a year-round problem.
Stagnant water is the ultimate breeding ground for mosquitoes. Keep all stagnant water covered, if you must have it near your house for any reason. Even small puddles can produce thousands of mosquitoes.
Rains that occur after a long drought can often produce the worst mosquito swarms, simply because predators that normally eat the mosquitoes are no longer in the area.
A Word on West Nile Virus
Texas has faced several outbreaks of West Nile Virus over the past few years. West Nile Virus can be deadly, but is usually harmless. In fact, 80 percent of people who get the virus show no symptoms at all, according to the CDC.
If you are in the 20 percent that shows symptoms, they will look like this:
- Unexplained body aches or headaches
- Unexplained joint pain
- Vomiting or diarrhea
If you have any of these symptoms in combination with mosquito bites, consult with a health professional right away. According to the CDC, about 1 percent of infected people could have a serious reaction to the virus, resulting in encephalitis or meningitis. Individuals with existing health issues are more likely to develop serious complications.
Following the tips outlined below will reduce your risk of getting the virus.
How to Prepare for Mosquitoes
Preparing to fight mosquitoes is a continual process. The biggest preventative measure you can take is to eliminate breeding places. It takes 7 to 10 days for mosquito eggs to hatch. Standing water should not be allowed to remain uncovered for more than 7 days. Pay special attention to areas like empty buckets, uncovered boats, low areas in the yard, rain gutters, and pet food bowls.
Keeping ducks or chickens may also help control your mosquito population because birds eat mosquitoes and other insects. Keeping fish and frogs in ponds and small bodies of water will also help prevent mosquitoes from breeding and keep live mosquitoes under control.
Certain plants also have mosquito-fighting properties. Rose scented geraniums contain citronellal oil, and can help ward off mosquito attacks. The lemon balm plant also offers mosquito-repelling properties. Catnip is also an effective plant remedy against mosquitoes. A study from Iowa State University found that the oil in catnip is 10 times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET. The basil plant also has some mosquito-repelling properties. Other plants that can provide benefit include marigold, ageratum, and horse mint.
Natural Prevention Methods for Mosquito Bites
While using the above methods can help reduce mosquito infestations at home, what about when you are out and about? Do you have to resort to chemical sprays? Of course not!
- Light up a few citronella candles and place them around the perimeter of where you will be.
- Try rubbing lemon balm, catnip, or basil on the skin to ward off aerial attackers. Re-apply every 30 minutes.
- Use a hand-held fan to blow the insects elsewhere.
- Don’t use perfumed shampoo and soap. Perfumes tend to attract mosquitoes.
- Use a natural bug repellent spray. You can either purchase one at a store, or make your own. You can use essential oils as a natural repellent.
- Wear loose clothing that covers up as much of your body as possible.
- Avoid going out at dawn and dusk, when possible.
- Smoke will also repel mosquito attacks.
How do you prepare for mosquito season?