The summer has come and the mosquitoes in your backyard are waiting in your ankles. And the elbows. And earrings.
Not coincidentally, the start of the season is National Mosquito Control Awareness Week, when the American Mosquito Control Assn. And other experts share tips to keep these blood-sucking insects away.
Like most blood-borne insects, mosquitoes attract humans from far away from the carbon dioxide we emit, said Daniel Markowski, AMCA’s technical consultant. Once they get close, they use a variety of other cues, such as shapes, sizes and colors, to add to their home.
The Times has asked experts on how to avoid flying leopards, what to do when you bite, and why some people are more attracted to mosquitoes than others. Here’s what they said.
According to the AMCA, there are 30 species of mosquitoes in the United States. Although there are differences in them – for example, some feed during the day and others at night – they share a life cycle that depends on water.
We all know an adult female mosquito buzzing in our ears and biting our arms, ”Markowski said. “But once she develops a batch of bite eggs, the female mosquitoes need a place with or near standing water to lay her eggs,” she said.
Incessant water for at least seven days is a magnet for mosquitoes. Typical locations include bird baths, old tires and folded gutters.
The Greater Los Angeles County Vector District lists standing water for the storage of many backyard and household items, such as portable basketball hoops, potted plants with open outdoor grills, saucers and flower vases.
“Since mosquito larvae eat rotting organic matter and other microorganisms, water must be immobilized and contain some organic matter, such as leaves, mud or grass clippings to support mosquito growth,” Markowski said.
You can eliminate these reproductive sites by draining or pouring water, then blocking the storage there – for example, by turning the bucket or closing the grill. Do this at least once a week.
The other two main mosquito attractants are bare skin and black clothing. So while you are enjoying the outdoors, wear long sleeves, long pants and light colored, loose clothing.
“Bright colors are not recommended in prime skater habitats because they are highly accentuated, especially in terms of background and contrast,” he said.
We also emit other chemical cues, including breathing odors, bacteria on our skin, and other scents that humans produce, Markovsky said.
“We are all different, and these different combinations are more or less attractive to different mosquito species,” Markowski said.
Some studies have shown that certain blood types can be particularly attractive to certain species of mosquitoes, he said. “I guess the combination of the above with the blood group really makes one person more attractive to mosquitoes than the other,” he said.
Your diet can also play a role in whether you eat snacks. Consumption of foods such as bananas, avocados and grapes has shown that some mosquito species increase host-seeking, but Markowski predicts that individual metabolism is a larger factor than specific foods.
One of the things to do to prevent mosquito bites in the Greater Los Angeles County Vector District is to apply one of these active ingredients: insecticide: DEET, picaridine, IR3535 (trade name for ethyl butylacetylaminopropionate) or lemon eucalyptus oil.
As with all products, it is best to treat a small area on the body first to make sure you do not have an allergic reaction before applying the repellent broadly, Markowski said. Read the product label and follow all usage guidelines.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises not to spray the repellent under your clothing. If you are using sunscreen, it is recommended that you apply sunscreen first and second insect repellent.
The US Environmental Protection Agency, meanwhile, has an online tool to help you find out which repellent works best for you.
Alternatives to chemical-based sprays or creams are with plant-based ingredients such as citronella, lavender and peppermint. Markowski said these ingredients are less effective than their synthetic counterparts, they can work for you if mosquitoes don’t find you powerfully attractive.
You can try to keep the outdoor area obscured by mosquitoes by setting up several tiki torches or other repellent spreaders. But the effectiveness of diffusers may vary depending on the species of mosquito. Try them one by one until you find the method that works best for you.
Some plants can provide some level of protection to your interior. These include Citronella and a few other geranium species, marigolds, lemongrass, catnip, some varieties of mint, lavender and lantana. There are also common aromatic herbs with limited ability to drive mosquitoes such as rosemary, garlic, basil, thyme and fennel. No, you don’t have to wear garlic to your neck.
If mosquitoes succeed in biting you despite all these precautions, don’t scratch! Markovsky said scratching can cause secondary infections and increase irritation. In extreme cases, people can injure themselves.
Anti-itching cream usually requires you to relieve the discomfort. If you are allergic to mosquitoes, you may need a cream containing Benadryl or similar antihistamines, he said.
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