By Chaya Goodman Kurtz, Networx
Mosquito breeding season is in full swing. Here is some solid advice for preventing and repelling these itch-inducing pests on your property.
Household Mosquito Repellents
Dr. Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, an entomologist and integrated pest management specialist from Cornell University, said, "The original pest control option was a screen." It sounds simple, but keeping mosquitoes out of your house is the best way to stop them from biting you inside your house.
Electric mosquito "zappers" don't work. Entomologists from the University of Kentucky said that bug zappers that use ultraviolet light to attract mosquitoes actually attract mosquitoes to the area being protected. Mosquitoes generally comprise only a small percentage of the insects that bug zappers kill. Flies, beetles and other innocuous flying insects comprise the majority.
According to the University of Kentucky entomologists, ultrasonic sound devices don't work to repel mosquitoes, either. The distributors of ultrasonic devices claim that they repel mosquitoes by mimicking the frequency of male mosquito wing beats. Some claim that they mimic the frequency of dragonfly wing beats, a natural predator of mosquitoes. Dr. Wayne J. Crans of Rutgers University said that these claims "border on fraud." Even if the electronic devices actually mimic the sound frequencies that they claim to, Dr. Crans said that female mosquitoes are not repelled by the sound of male mosquitoes, and that mosquitoes are not particularly afraid of dragonflies.
The household repellent that has been scientifically proven to work is citronella oil. The University of Kentucky entomologists said that citronella candles can provide some amount of protection. They said that one candle placed in the center of an outdoor table will not be effective. Rather, multiple citronella candles should be placed a few feet away from the area in which people are sitting. The Mississippi State Department of Health cited a study which reported that 3 percent concentration citronella candles offer a 42 percent reduction in mosquito bites, and regular candles offer a 23 percent reduction in mosquito bites.
According to the American Mosquito Control Association, a chemical called Permethrin effectively repels mosquitoes when it is applied to clothing and bed nets. Permethrin should never be applied directly to skin. However, it can be applied safely to mosquito netting. It has been used widely for years as a mosquito netting treatment in countries with high rates of malaria.
Preventing Mosquitoes from Hatching on Your Property
The best way to prevent mosquitoes from biting you in or around your house is to prevent them from hatching on your property. Dr. Gangloff-Kaufmann said, "The preventative stuff that a homeowner can do simply revolves around habitat. You want to eliminate standing water to eliminate their larval habitat."
The lifecycle of a mosquito goes like this: An adult mosquito lays a raft of eggs in water. They don't need a large body of water to lay eggs in -- a dog bowl with a little water left inside it is sufficient to make a mosquito larvae habitat. The eggs turn into larvae within 48 hours of being laid. The larvae feed on microorganisms in the water. It takes larvae about 1-6 days to become pupae. The pupae take about 48 hours to develop into full grown adult mosquitoes. I'm telling you this so that you understand how quickly mosquitoes reproduce. If you inadvertently leave standing water on your property, mosquitoes will reproduce in it extremely quickly.
Here are some examples of potential mosquito larval habitats:
- Bird baths
- Wading pools
- Rain gutters
- Old tires
- Pet dishes
- Flower pot bottoms
- Crumpled plastic sheeting and tarps
- Soil depressions that accumulate water
Although you might be a responsible homeowner who prevents larval habitats on your property, your neightbors might not be. Dr. Gangloff-Kaufmann said, "Unfortunately, your neighbor might still have their birdbath or bucket of water. So it's hard to eliminate all habitat around you. I had neighbors who just on a whim got a pool and put it up. They were not real serious about maintaining this pool so they chlorinated it once and they left it. So through the summer it turned green, and by August we had Asian tiger mosquitoes attacking us. I ended up calling the county vector control program and they came and inspected it and the town made them take the pool down."
The Bottom Line
Keeping mosquitoes away from your house takes vigilance in terms of inspecting your property for potential larval habitats. If preventative measures and mosquito repellants are not effective, consider calling a qualified exterminator or your local vector control program.