Archive for Monday, May 11, 2009


Sucker punch: Entomologist offers several strategies to keep mosquitoes at bay

May 11, 2009


On the street

Do you have a strategy for repelling mosquitoes?

Just DEET.

More responses

Tricks to treat a mosquito bite

While it is impossible to prevent all mosquito bites, here are several tips to help after you’ve already been bitten:

• Do not scratch. Continual scratching will prolong the itching and may lead to infection.

• Treat the infected area with soap and water as soon as you notice you have been bitten.

• Apply an ice pack to the bite to numb the area and reduce irritation.

• Treat the bite with calamine lotion, hydrocortisone or some other anti-itch cream.

• Aloe vera will soothe the skin as well as form a protective layer from infection.

• Take an antihistamine like Benadryl to help control swelling and itching.

Source: Kristin Michel

The approach of summer isn’t all about swimming, baseball and family vacations.

It also brings pests out to ruin your outdoor activities.

For many, the king of those pests is the mosquito, carrier of diseases such as the West Nile virus and instigator of itchy skin.

But by following a few simple steps, you can cut down on the disruption these insects bring and prevent them from biting. Some tips:

• “One of the main things you should do is avoid creating breeding sites for them,” says Kristin Michel, assistant professor of entomology at Kansas State University. “Don’t leave buckets of water sitting around. Clear out standing water, because this is where they love to breed.”

Other areas that commonly harbor mosquito larvae include birdbaths, pet water bowls, clogged gutters and low-lying drainage ditches. By removing or refreshing the water in these and other areas, you can eliminate the areas in which mosquitoes reproduce and dramatically reduce the population in your yard, helping reduce the number of times you are bitten, Michel says.

• Also, by simply trimming high vegetation in your yard, you can encourage these pests to move elsewhere. Adult mosquitoes love extraneous vegetation, so by getting rid of this, you can get rid of them.

• In addition to creating a mosquito-unfriendly yard, there are several things you can do to help protect yourself from bites, Michel says.

“You can do things like wearing long sleeves and using screens,” Michel says. “And of course, DEET and insect repellents always work.”

• Citronella candles can be effective, though are not a foolproof way to prevent mosquito bites, Michel says.

“People use citronella a lot,” she says, “but you will still most likely get bitten, even if you are sitting right next to a candle.”

• Another strategy that may be helpful in deterring mosquito bites is cultivating certain plant varieties that mosquitoes seem to dislike. Various reports have cited horsemint, rosemary, marigolds, ageratum, agastache cana and catnip as producing odors that deter mosquitoes. By crushing the leaves of these plants and rubbing it on your clothes or skin you may be able to take advantage of their pest-repelling attributes, though Michel admitted there were conflicting reports on the effectiveness of these plants.

“I’ve heard all sorts of things — lemon juice, garlic, all sorts of things,” she says. “It’s hard to tell which of these are based on actual scientific studies and which are just old wives’ tales.”

• One strategy that is effective, according to Michel, is sitting near a fan. As tiny, lightweight insects, mosquitoes are unable to fly into strong breezes and thus will have a hard time reaching someone sitting near a fan.

• Another trick to deterring these pesky bugs is to take advantage of smoke. Like most insects, mosquitoes avoid smoke and fire, so by sitting downwind from a campfire or barbecue grill, you can avoid them as much as possible.

• Of course, what may be the single most effective strategy for combating mosquitoes is to invite their natural predators into your yard. Bats, in particular, are noted for their voracious appetite for mosquitoes, and studies have shown one small brown bat can catch as many as 600 mosquitoes per hour. To attract bats, consider buying or building a bat house. Plans are available from Bat Conservation International.


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