Mosquitos have the dubious distinction of being called the deadliest animals on planet Earth. How peculiar nature is; the lowly buzzing mosquito kills more humans than large aggressive sharp toothed animals such as sharks, lions, and crocodiles. Prior to modern conveniences, mosquitos contributed to making large portions of land almost uninhabitable. The death and disease humans have suffered because of mosquitoes is incalculable and has shaped the history of the world.
Mosquitos, and their dreaded bite and ensuing disease, have influenced the outcome of wars, the spread of religions, and the impact of traditions. Malaria outbreaks within the Persian army were one factor which allowed the Greeks to be victorious in the Greco-Persian War. The marshy land around the city of Rome protected it and delivered disease to Rome’s invaders. The Crusaders were plagued by disease as they attempted to capture Jerusalem from the Muslims.
Before Columbus sailed the ocean in 1492, the Aedes aegypti mosquito was not found in the New World. This mosquito was native to West Africa and was likely brought to the New World on a ship carrying slaves. As it established itself, Aedes aegypti mosquito spread diseases such as yellow fever and dengue fever which are partially responsible for the destruction of the native American empires. Mosquitos and the sickness they caused, altered British troop placement during the Revolutionary War. As a result, regiments from the southern colonies, with some previous exposure/immunity to yellow fever and malaria were better able to fight battles in the mosquito infested south.
The lowly mosquitos continued to influence the placement and success of humans as they explored new terrain. In the late 1800’s a Cuban doctor Carlos Finlay discovered the link between mosquitos and the deadly diseases of yellow fever, malaria, and dengue fever. Although his views were not readily accepted, those that came after Finlay applied his principles of mosquito management and yellow fever was all but eradicated in Cuba in 1905.
With strong public health programs working to reduce mosquitos and the devastating consequences of their bites, these diseases have become rare in the developed world. However, without strong public support and funding for these public health programs, mosquito populations will inevitably increase, thereby increasing occurrences of these dangerous diseases. If your local government does not have an active mosquito control program, you can safeguard your own yard, patio, deck, and pool area from mosquitos. Call Nextgen Pest Solutions today to discuss mosquito solutions for your home and yard.
Species of Mosquitos
Worldwide, there are over 3,000 species of mosquitos; about 200 species of mosquitos live in the United States. Of these 200 pesky mosquito species, 12 species spread diseases.
The three most common mosquito types that spread germs are:
Anopheles mosquitoes (An. freeborni and An. quadrimaculatus)
Of course, when a mosquito bites you, most people cannot identify the mosquito down to the species. It is best practice to actively reduce the mosquito population in areas where it is within your power to do so, and physically protect yourself from the bite of a mosquito.
Southern House Mosquito – Culex quinquefasciatus
The most common mosquito in the United States is the Southern house mosquito. Southern house mosquitos belong to the Culex group, scientifically known as Culex quinquefasciatus. This scientific name refers to the 5 striped bands on their abdomens. “Quinx” as they are sometimes called, are light brown in color with distinctive white stripes across their bodies. Their legs are solid in color. The Southern house mosquito is more than a pest, it acts as a vector for dog heart worm, St. Louis encephalitis virus, and West Nile virus. Southern house mosquitos are especially fond of breeding in standing water with high organic content such as ditches, catch basins, dairy lagoons, and canals. These pesky mosquitoes are active in both the day and the night and feed on humans, birds, and other mammals.
Yellow Fever Mosquito – Aedes aegypti
As its name suggests, the yellow fever mosquito is the primary vector for yellow fever. Aedes aegypti is common in tropical, subtropical, and temperate regions throughout the world. With public health programs and the introduction of the Asian Tiger Mosquito the population of the Yellow Fever Mosquito was greatly reduced. However, this deadly mosquito is now expanding into geographic ranges where they were previously eradicated. It is a pest of significant concern in areas of south Florida, especially the Florida Keys, and areas along the Gulf Coast.
Aedes aegypti not only spread yellow fever, they also carry and spread dengue fever, chikungunya, and Zika viruses. Aedes aegypti are usually dark brown or black with white bands on their legs. They are easily mistaken for the Asian Tiger Mosquito, however, the Aedes aegypti has white scales on the top of the thorax in the shape of a lyre or violin. They breed and live close to human communities because they prefer containers which hold small amounts of water. The Yellow Fever Mosquito seems to prefer to feed on human hosts rather than birds or other mammals. These mosquitos stealthily bite day or night, and bites are often concentrated around the ankles.
Asian Tiger Mosquito – Aedes albopictus
The Asian Tiger Mosquito, Aedes albopictus, was first identified in the United States in Texas in 1985. This species has rapidly spread throughout the eastern United States and is credited with causing a rapid decline in the Yellow Fever Mosquito.
Although the Asian Tiger Mosquito does not have the destructive history of the Yellow Fever Mosquito, it is no picnic either. The Asian Tiger Mosquito is a very aggressive biter, and primarily bites during the day. This species also lives in close proximity to humans as it prefers to lay eggs in household and yard objects that may be holding water. The Asian Tiger Mosquito can be identified by the white stripes on its legs and body.
Despite its high population, aggressive nature, and willingness to bite humans the Asian Tiger Mosquito is not an efficient disease spreader as the Yellow Fever Mosquito. The Asian Tiger Mosquito, has been implicated in the spread of diseases such as Dengue Fever, but is considered a maintenance vector rather than a primary vector. Although, these mosquitos are less likely to spread illness, they are very aggressive biters and should be controlled for the comfort of your friends and family.
Biological Control for Mosquitos
Despite the irritation of mosquito bites, publicly funded action is usually not commenced unless it relates to public health. As discussed above, Aedes aegypti are competent vectors of dangerous diseases such as dengue fever, zika virus, and yellow fever. This mosquito is most commonly found in South Florida in the archipelago islands of the Florida Keys. Aedes aegypti account for 4% of the Keys mosquito population, yet are responsible for almost all mosquito-borne disease transmission. To combat these mosquitos, in 2021 researchers released a genetically modified mosquito.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granted an experimental use permit to Oxitec, a British biotechnology firm. As a result, they released genetically modified male mosquitos with the hopes they would mate with current female Aedes aegypti population in the Keys. Male mosquitos do not bite, as the blood meal is a requirement for egg production.
These male mosquitos which were released are modified to carry a gene which kills the female mosquito larvae, but allows the male mosquitos to live. The idea or hope behind this project is that the modified progeny of the released mosquitos will continue to mate passing down this gene that causes the females to die. As the population of female Aedes aegypti mosquitos dwindles, bites will decrease, therefore slowing the spread of disease.
As pesticide resistance becomes more common and communities shudder at widespread mosquito spray programs, innovative solutions should be explored. Whether this particular project will be a success remains to be seen, but solving difficult problems often requires out-of-the-box thinking and creatively reimagining the future.
Most everyone has an experience of being overrun by a swarm of mosquitos. Whether on the Boy Scout camping trip or changing a blown out tire on the side of the road, relentless mosquito bites are impossible to ignore and unlikely forgettable. Did you know though, that mosquitos often bite us without us knowing. A quick trip to the mailbox just before dark, or an early morning jog can result in mosquito bites that you didn’t realize you were acquiring. Before injecting her straw-like mouthpart into your skin, the female mosquito spreads a bit of saliva on your skin. Mosquito saliva contains over 100 different proteins, one of which acts as a mild local anesthetic. Especially, if you are distracted by your phone and it was just one mosquito, you may emerge from the confrontation with a bite mark and no recollection of having been bit.
When you have marks on your skin with no clear indication of what bit you, the human imagination can run wild. Bed bugs, fleas, ticks, and lice all conjure up visions of lengthy and expensive exterminations and possible reinfestations. The most effective way to identify an unknown bite, is to locate a specimen of the biter. However, with mosquitos, this becomes difficult. Mosquitos can and do enter homes, but they really don’t take up residence and reproduce indoors like bed bugs or German roaches. You are not going to find a nest of mosquitos indoors. Mosquitos may come indoors due to a broken window screen or because your child left the back door open.
To identify a mosquito as the culprit behind your mysterious bite, your personal history and knowledge of your reactions to known mosquito bites is the best evidence. Every person reacts differently to mosquito bites. Remember the 100 proteins present in mosquito saliva? The immune response to these proteins is what triggers the reaction that we call a mosquito bite. Typically, a mosquito bite is a minor skin irritation characterized by redness, swelling, and itchiness. Usually, within minutes of the mosquito taking your blood and flying away, at the bite site, your skin will erupt in a puffy reddish to white bump. Often the area surrounding the bump will be red and irritated as well.
In many people, the appearance of the mosquito bites change over the next day or two. Some people’s body reacts by forming a hard, itchy bump, sometimes mosquito bites present themselves as small blisters. Other people exhibit mosquito bites as a small dark spot that looks like a bruise. Every person’s reaction to mosquito bites is distinct and may even change over time. Even identical twins, who have the same DNA and were playing in the same mosquito infested area, can have radically different reactions to the mosquito bites. This is because a person’s reaction to a mosquito bite is a function of their immune system, not their DNA.
In most circumstances, a mosquito bite is resolved within 5-7 days as just a minor inconvenience. However, especially in young children or cases with a large number of mosquito bites, the bite sites can become infected.
Mosquito bites can make you crazy with itch. Even as an adult who knows better, I have scratched mosquito bites. This is never in your best interest, as it can cause infection, and it doesn’t ultimately even stop the itch. Some people even claim that scratching an itch makes it worse. The theory is, scratching an itch produces a mild pain sensation in your brain in lieu of an itch sensation. To reduce the pain, your body releases serotonin. With this serotonin release, the body is triggered to release another chemical which creates more itchy sensations. Anecdotally speaking, this vicious itchy cycle rings true, because once you start scratching a mosquito bite, it is certainly hard to stop.
The best way to prevent mosquito bites from becoming infected is by treating the bites with over the counter itch relief and cover them up if necessary. To reduce the itch response, the Center for Disease Control suggests making a paste with baking soda and water and applying it to the site of the mosquito bite. Allow it to sit for 10 minutes and then wash it off. Follow this paste with an over-the-counter anti-itch cream or antihistamine cream. Follow the instructions on these products and apply as directed by the label.
Despite your best efforts, a mosquito bite may still become infected. If persistent scratching has broken the skin barrier, you may be susceptible to a bacterial skin infection.
Signs of an infected mosquito bite include:
Area may appear bright red
Feel warm to the touch
Bright red streak running through the area of infection
Widespread swelling around the bite site
Pus or drainage seeping from the bite site
Fever or chills
Swelling of the lymph nodes
If you experience any of these symptoms surrounding a mosquito bite, contact your doctor.
Have you ever been plagued by a mosquito buzzing around your ear as you lay in bed? Even if you don’t hear the buzzing beast, mosquitos sneak indoors and bite you while you sleep. Mosquitos locate potential victims by seeking out the carbon dioxide that is expelled from our breath. Both mosquitos and bed bugs take advantage of us as we lie oblivious to their blood thirsty requirements. Both bed bugs and mosquitos have a mild painkiller in their saliva that often allows us to blissfully sleep through the puncture of our skin and subsequent lapping of our blood.
If you wake with an itchy bite that you did not have when you went to bed, the obvious fear is bed bugs. However, most of the time bed bug bites and mosquito bites are distinguishable. I would like to note, since everyone reacts differently to insect bites, for some people their mosquito bites will look more like pictures they see of bed bug bites and for some people their bed bug bites will look like pictures of mosquito bites. This information can help you narrow down the culprit, but always try to find specimens to confirm 100% what is causing the bites.
Mosquito bites in their early stages are usually puffy whitish bites surrounded by reddened skin. For many people, mosquito bites change after a day or two to become more concentrated and the bite site turns more red. Bed bug bites are usually smaller than mosquito bites. Bed bug bites more resemble a pustule or nodule. They don’t usually dramatically change except to alleviate and eventually disappear. Bed bug bites are often, but not always, found in multiples. When a bed bug loses its suction before it is fully fed, it walks over a centimeter or two and pierces you again.
Adult male and female mosquitos both consume nectar from flowers for fuel and nutrition. However, female mosquitos require blood in order to produce viable eggs. To continue the species, female mosquitos utilize the various proteins and amino acids found in blood to nourish their eggs and leave her legacy.
The mosquito life cycle is quite rapid. Depending upon conditions, such as temperature and availability of food, the life cycle typically takes 2 weeks. However, particularly favorable conditions may allow an egg to mature to an adult in 4 days, and in particularly hostile conditions maturation may take up to 1 month. Female mosquitos, after feeding upon blood, lay eggs near collections of water, moist soil, or even at the base of plants that may accumulate water. These offspring proceed through 4 phases of complete metamorphosis, egg, larvae, pupae, and adult. Mosquitos live the first 3 stages of their life cycle in or near water. Female mosquitos do not become “biters” until they reach adulthood.
Unlike some insects like bees, mosquitos do not die after they bite. They are specifically designed for piercing and sucking blood and are therefore quite proficient at the sport. If a female mosquito chooses a victim that shoos her off and she only partially fills up, she will either find a new victim or continue to harass the original target. Mosquitos will continue to suck blood until she has the nutrients necessary to produce her eggs.
Upon emerging as adults, mosquitos usually mate within 24 hours . Most female mosquitoes only require one mating session to fertilize all the eggs that she will lay in their lifetime. After she has mated, she seeks blood to fully develop her eggs. A female mosquito requires approximately 5 microliters of blood to lay eggs. That is approximately the size of a mustard seed and between 2-3 times her body weight. Upon laying her eggs on the river bank or in accumulation of water in your yard, she immediately begins looking for her next fill. Adult female mosquitoes may lay eggs every third day during her lifetime. The initial set of eggs is usually the largest with up to 500 eggs. Later egg lays contain around 100 eggs. It is believed that mosquitoes can lay around 10 sets of eggs in her lifetime.
Mosquitoes Draw Blood from Many Species
Mosquitoes torment animals of many species. Humans, mammals, cold blooded reptiles, and even birds are subject to the mosquitos’ intense requirement for blood. As stated earlier, there are many different species of mosquitoes within our ecosystem. Some species have developed an affinity for the blood of particular animals, while others are less discriminatory. Aedes aegypti, which is the primary vector of some very serious diseases, prefer to attack humans.
Public health officials and entomologists study from whom mosquitoes are procuring their stock of blood. As the relationship between the species is understood, the knowledge can be applied to preventing diseases in both humans and other animals. Birds are a common target for many mosquito species as bird blood is often found in mosquitos. As expected, mosquitos commonly brutalize farm animals such cattle, sheep, and horses.
Research into Eastern equine encephalomyelitis, which kills 90% of horses it infects, has revealed that the virus may incubate in snakes during the winter. The virus is commonly found in birds, but in cold locations, many birds migrate and adult mosquitos do not survive the winter. After performing tests on poisonous cottonmouth snakes in Alabama, it was determined that the virus can remain in snakes over the winter. When mosquitos bite the snake in the spring, they are infected with the virus. While it is difficult to feel sorry for snakes, it is believed that mosquitos either maneuver their mouthparts between the snake’s scales, or they extract blood through the snake’s eye. Either way, mosquitos are a menace to mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds.
How Do Mosquitoes Find Their Victims?
Mosquitos are highly efficient at locating and securing what they need most… a blood meal. These “ladies that lunch” are adept at locating sleeping humans inside of a large home or a single person sitting alone in the forest. Mosquitos utilize specific tools which enable them to quickly home in on their next meal, including heat mapping, carbon dioxide sensors, and taste sensors.
As we breath we exhale carbon dioxide. Mosquitos have a carbon dioxide sensor which allows them to recognize the gas and follow it to its source. Hence, mosquitos often buzz around our faces because that is the source of the carbon dioxide. As she approaches the source of carbon dioxide, her heat tracking device more specifically pinpoints the location of the potential meal and gives the mosquito information as to whether the meal may be a warm blooded mammal or a cold blooded reptile.
Have you ever noticed how some people are tormented by mosquitos, while the person standing right next to them experience minimal mosquito activity? The answer to why this seems to occur may be explained by taste organs. Taste receptors on the mosquitos’ legs, feet, and mouthparts give clues as to the tastiness of a particular victim. One study found that mosquitos were more attracted to men who have less diverse skin bacteria. Some people believe that mosquitos are less attracted to people wearing black or dark colored clothing. Other studies suggest that our diet and genetic makeup and blood type determines whether mosquitos will find us to be a tasty meal. Yet another study revealed that the mosquito which carries malaria is attracted to the smell of human feet. Human feet often have the bacterium, Brevibacterium linens on them, which is the same bacteria that gives Limburger cheese its distinctive smell. Subsequent tests showed that this mosquito was attracted to Limburger cheese.
Nature has effectively equipped mosquitos for survival. Scientists have also turned these same taste and odor receptors against the mighty mosquito. DEET, which is generally accepted to be the most effective active ingredient in mosquito repellents, activates a bitter sensation on the taste receptors. Mosquitos immediately recognize this flavor profile as one they do not wish to participate in and move on.
The intensity and duration of mosquito bite itch ranges from person to person. When a mosquito removes blood from a person or animal, it is more complicated than say a blood draw at the lab, where the phlebotomist pierces the skin and draws the blood. When a mosquito lands and bites, multiple things happen in rapid succession.
Once she has selected her victim, the mosquito spits a small amount of saliva onto the surface. Mosquito saliva has multiple functions, but at this stage, the saliva acts as a mild analgesic to prevent pain from the piercing and probing that will come next. The mild pain killing effect of mosquito saliva helps to ensure survival of the species by giving the mosquito a greater chance at procuring the blood necessary to lay viable eggs.
Next, the mosquito pierces through the skin in search of a blood vessel. The mosquitos piercing and sucking mouthpart, called the proboscis is a complex needle like apparatus that is actually composed of not one, but 6 separate needle-like projections called stylets. Each stylet simultaneously performs a unique function which enables to mosquito to quickly take her fill of blood. After sawing through your skin, she must probe for a blood vessel. Sensors on a stylet called the labrum guide her to a blood vessel and pierces it. Your blood is pumped up through the labrum into the mosquito’s gut. This pumping action is so powerful that it sometimes causes blood vessels to rupture or collapse. At the same time blood is being pulled out of your body, another stylet or tube called the hypopharynx, is pumping mosquito saliva into your body. The saliva’s purpose here is to prevent blood clotting and allow the blood to flow freely.
As the mosquito is rapidly pumping blood from your body, her body is actively separating the water in the blood from the nutrient rich red blood cells. As the water waste is extracted from the blood, it is excreted out of the mosquitos back end. This biological feature enables the mosquito to fill her body with even more blood.
Why Do Mosquito Bites Itch?
Above, while discussing the mechanics of a mosquito bite, we made mention of mosquito saliva. The simple answer is the itch and swelling are the body’s reaction to the foreign substance of mosquito saliva. Mosquito saliva that is injected into your body is composed of proteins and enzymes that cause an allergic reaction. When this chemical compound is identified by the immune system, it rushes in to help. The immune system releases histamines at the site of the allergen, which causes localized puffiness and swelling as well as the characteristic itching associated with mosquito bites. In addition to our bodies releasing histamine, some research suggests that the mosquito saliva itself may contain this irritant histamine.
In most cases, the body’s reaction to a mosquito bite is unpleasant yet bearable. Usually, bites resolve in a few days and the bite becomes a distant memory. However, some individuals are more susceptible to intense allergic reactions to mosquito bites.
Allergic Reaction to Mosquito Bites – Skeeter Syndrome
Technically speaking, the swelling and itching associated with a common mosquito bite is an allergic reaction. However, some people, who are more sensitive to the allergens introduced during a mosquito bite may experience more severe immunological responses.
With frequent exposure to the allergens in the mosquito saliva, gradual desensitization can occur. Just as people can deliberately inject themselves and swallow cobra and puff-adder venom and build an immunity to the venom, mosquitos can become less of a nuisance for those of us that are bit frequently. Interestingly enough, the bite of one species of mosquito does not help to desensitize you to other species of mosquitos. Immunologically speaking, the allergic reactions to mosquitos generally span 5 phases. Phase 1 is having no reaction to a mosquito bite; this usually occurs in early childhood. As you acquire subsequent bites throughout your life, most people experience delayed physical reactions, then immediate and delayed reactions, followed by only a delayed reaction. At the 5th stage of desensitization, no reaction occurs from a mosquito bite. Most people do not acquire enough bites during their life to reach the nirvana of the 5th stage.
Thankfully, intense life-harrowing systemic reactions, such as those common with people allergic to the sting of bees and wasps, are quite rare with the bite of a mosquito. However, some people are more sensitive to the allergens, and that sensitivity manifests itself by the size and duration of mosquito bites. A more severe reaction to mosquito bites is termed Skeeter Syndrome. While a “normal” mosquito bite may reach a diameter of ¾ of an inch, a person with Skeeter Syndrome may display an area of swelling up to 4 inches in diameter. In general, the bite marks are much larger in appearance, last longer, and are intensely itchy in Skeeter Syndrome sufferers.
Small children and adults relocating to an area with an unfamiliar species of mosquito are the most likely to exhibit this severe reaction (Skeeter Syndrome) to a mosquito bite. Skeeter Syndrome usually occurs once a person has been bitten and become sensitized to the allergen, but not bitten frequently enough to become desensitized to the allergen. Understandably so, children who exhibit this reaction are often fiercely shielded from potential mosquito bites, which delays their ultimate desensitization.
Disease from Mosquito Bites
Indirectly, the bite of a mosquito causes more deaths worldwide than the bite of any other animal. Mosquitos carry many diseases that have shaped the growth of civilizations and influenced the outcome of wars. Here in the United States, we mostly view mosquitoes as an annoying pest, but in other areas of the world they are much more than that; mosquitos cause severe illness and death.
When a mosquito feeds on the blood of an animal, it ingests any viruses or parasites living in the blood of its victim. These viruses and parasites are transferred into the mosquito’s next victim when the mosquito injects her saliva in during the blood withdrawal process. There are many mosquito-borne diseases. According to the CDC, West Nile Virus is one of the most common mosquito-borne diseases in the continental United States. Dengue Fever, Chickungunya, and Zika Virus have occurred in Florida and Texas as well as US territories such as Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and American Samoa.
Other mosquito-borne diseases include the following:
Cache Valley Virus
Eastern equine encephalitis
La Crosse encephalitis
Rift Valley fever
Ross River virus disease
St. Louis encephalitis
Dirofilariasis (dog heartworm)
Robust mosquito control programs in the United States have nearly eradicated locally acquired malaria. However, malaria is a serious concern worldwide. According to the CDC, in 2020 an estimated 241 million people suffered from malaria around the world. An astonishing 627,000 people died of malaria, the vast majority of deaths were children in sub-Saharan Africa. Life-saving anti-malaria pills and preventative treatments have reduced malaria transmissions worldwide, but there is still much work to be done.
Dogs, Cats, and Mosquito Bites
Despite having fur, dogs and cats are susceptible to mosquito bites. If you are being fiercely attacked by mosquitos in your yard or by the pool, chances are, your furry friend is as well. Mosquitos are most likely to target your dog’s exposed skin rather than attempt to bury herself in fur. Dogs are most prone to mosquito bites on their belly, ears, and on and around their nose, but bites can occur anywhere on your dog. Cat blood will also provide the pesky mosquito the nutrients she needs to lay eggs. Cats usually get bitten by mosquitos on their ears and nose.
Dogs and cats can react to the mosquito bite in a similar way to most humans. A small red irritated bump may appear on their skin, accompanied by incessant scratching. Just as in humans, some dogs and cats may be more sensitive the allergens injected into them during a mosquito bite. Hypersensitive dogs and cats may exhibit larger wounds, scales, and legions on areas with significant mosquito bites. Unfortunately, we cannot reason with our pets and explain to them the dangers of scratching a mosquito bite, therefore the risk of infection increases. Even if you rarely enjoy your yard or outdoor space, taking steps to reduce mosquito bites is a worthy endeavor.
Aside from irritation and itchiness, mosquito bites can spread diseases to dogs and cats. Mosquito bites can cause your dog or cat to become infected with a parasite called heartworm disease. The parasite, called Dirofilaria immitis, lives in the blood vessels and heart of your pet. The parasite becomes so large that your pet’s breathing becomes difficult and your pet’s heart cannot pump enough blood to stay alive. Early signs of heartworm disease include lethargy, coughing, and vomiting. Ultimately, heartworm disease causes organ failure and death if left untreated.
Preventing heartworm disease in your pet is less expensive and kinder than treating heartworms once established. Heartworm treatment depends upon the size of your pet and the stage of the disease, but it often involves multiple injections to kill the parasite and any accompanying bacteria. Your pet may suffer needlessly while waiting for the parasite to die off. The misery and pain caused by heartworms is 100% preventable. Talk to your veterinarian about preventative heartworm treatments and protect your dog against mosquito bites.
Mosquito bites also pose a risk of transmitting West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis to your pet. Proper veterinary care and mosquito control techniques are necessary to safeguard your pet against the most serious effects of mosquito bites.
Preventing Mosquito Bites
Taking thoughtful and particular steps to prevent mosquito bites can truly minimize the pain and aggravation inflicted by the nuisance creatures. Often, preventing mosquito bites is a multi-pronged approach allowing for multiple layers of protection.
Eliminate Mosquito Breeding Areas to Prevent Mosquito Bites
Control the areas that you can control. Most mosquitos live their entire life relatively close to where they were born/hatched. Mosquitos need standing water to breed. Mosquito eggs do not develop and hatch if they are in a dry environment. Simple alterations to your yard can seriously reduce the number of mosquitos you deal with. Have you ever noticed that mosquitos seem worse after an extended rainy period? The mosquito life cycle requires water. By eliminating mosquito breeding conditions, you naturally reduce the number of pesky biters.
Common recommendations include:
Eliminate all standing water on your property – this includes rain gutters, old tires in the yard, toys left out by your children, plastic covers or tarps which may be holding water, buckets or wheel barrows, kiddy pools, flowerpot saucers, and trash containers. Take a walking tour of your property and overturn any item holding even a small amount of water.
Evaluate the water features of your landscape. Birdbaths, fountains, wading pools, rain barrels, and potted plants are all potential breeding locations for mosquitos. Ensure these features are cleaned regularly and tightly covered or emptied if possible.
Keep your swimming pool circulating well and properly treated.
Trim extraneous foliage and remove yard waste. Even the amount of water pooled into the leaf of a fallen branch can be enough for mosquitos to thrive.
Pest Control for Mosquito Control
By removing the areas of standing water, you have likely improved your mosquito situation immensely. However, you can not control your neighbors. If the yard behind your fence is disheveled and unkept it is likely breeding mosquitos. Mosquitos have no respect for your property rights and will happily fly those few hundred feet to your yard. Even without a “problem” neighbor some areas of the country are simply under heavier mosquito threat than others. Where disease is less of a concern, local municipalities have cut costs by reducing or eliminating wide-spread mosquito spraying programs. This leaves homeowners and tenants to deal with pest control treatments for better mosquito control.
Pest control for mosquito control is a personalized inquiry. By evaluating how and when you use your yard and your level of discomfort from relentless mosquito bites, you may decide that mosquito pest control is a good option for your family. Mosquito pest control works in conjunction with the elimination of standing water and other mosquito bite mitigation efforts. Most species of mosquitos bite most aggressively at dawn and dusk. But where do mosquitos go during the day? Mosquitos rest during the day in shady, sheltered, and humid or moist areas. Mosquitos usually sleep in foliage, vegetation, or long grass. By applying a chemical barrier to the foliage around your yard you can eliminate the mosquitos while they are at rest, thereby preventing mosquito bites. Nextgen Pest Solutions’ Mosquito Control Program reduces mosquito populations so that you can enjoy your yard mosquito free.
Physical Barriers to Prevent Mosquito Bites
In addition to eliminating the standing water mosquitos use to breed, applying chemicals to eradicate remaining mosquitos, a slight change in your procedures may help to prevent mosquito bites. Many species of mosquitos are most active at dawn and dusk. By remaining indoors at these times of day, you will simply avoid much mosquito activity. Many gardeners and runners prefer dusk and dawn to escape the heat of the summer day, but making this slight alteration may reduce mosquito bites. However, if you are still getting bit mid-day by mosquitos, you can likely blame the Asian Tiger Mosquito. This mosquito species is an aggressive daytime biter and spreads many mosquito-borne diseases.
Although it may be hot, physically protect your skin from mosquitos by wearing long sleaved shirts and long pants. In mosquito infested areas such as near water ways in the south, this physical barrier greatly reduces the number of mosquito bites you may sustain. Specialized mosquito clothing is marketed to hikers, campers and fishermen. These products often contain the pesticide permethrin imbedded in the fabric and is approved by the EPA for up to 70 washings. You can also purchase permethrin that you can spray on your clothing to deter and kill any mosquitos that may venture to land on you. Permethrin should not be applied directly to your skin.
For serious expeditions into mosquito territory, mosquito netting can efficiently and naturally protect you from mosquitos. We’ve all seen pictures of mosquito nets covering beds, this versatile mosquito netting can be incorporated into clothing as well. Hats with mosquito netting that cover the face and neck are invaluable in certain circumstances, as well as netting jacket which protects your arms and hands are widely available. Depending upon the risk of mosquito bites, mosquito netting offers a chemical free mosquito prevention barrier.
DEET Mosquito Repellent
The general consensus within the scientific community is that mosquito repellents that contain the chemical DEET are safe and highly effective. Products containing DEET are readily available in different concentrations or strengths and different formulations such as lotions, aerosol sprays, wipes, and bracelets. The higher concentration of DEET in your mosquito repellent the longer it will work against mosquitos. DEET has been found to be effective against ticks as well. DEET does not kill biting insects and it doesn’t even prevent them from landing on us to investigate. But it greatly reduces the number of times a mosquito will actually bite.
Despite DEETs mosquito bite reducing properties being known since the 1940’s, scientists are unsure as to exactly why it works so well. Recent experiments seem to suggest they taste the DEET and want nothing to do with the blood of this foul-tasting creature! When discussing the mechanics of a mosquito bite, I mentioned that mosquitos have taste receptors on their legs. They are drawn to us by our exhaled carbon dioxide and heat, and taste and smell us with sensors on their legs and feet. Mosquitos readily land on a person wearing DEET, however, they rarely bite. If you must go into mosquito infested territory, products containing DEET will spare your skin and allow you to enjoy your outdoor experience.
Treatment of Mosquito Bites
Mosquito bites themselves rarely cause serious and systemic injury. Not to make light of the serious itch factor associated with mosquitos the real danger lies in the diseases they spread as they rely on blood to procreate. If you are going to a country where specific mosquito-borne diseases are common, talk to your doctor or your local health department about preventative and therapeutic measures.
For the common mosquito bite, relieving the burning itch is the primary concern. Especially for children who cannot control their scratching, infection prevention is vital. This involves washing the bites with soap and water, and covering them with gauze or bandages after applying a salve to the skin.
The CDC recommends making a paste with 3 parts baking soda and 1 part water. Apply this thick paste to the bite and allow it to dry before washing it off. Many over-the-counter itch creams help to relive itchy symptoms and prevent chronic scratching and damaging of the skin. Some people find that simply running the inflamed itchy bite under hot water alleviates the itch. Honey is often suggested for mosquito bites as it may have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. In particularly miserable mosquito bite situations, consider giving an oral antihistamine such as Benadryl. These medications can block the histamines which are causing the inflammation and itchy sensations.
Prevention is the best cure for mosquito bites. Think about your mosquito exposure when you embark upon a new adventure. Mosquito repellent, protective clothing, and an anti-itch cream should always be a part of your outdoor adventure pack. However, at home, you should enjoy your yard and savor the summer evenings without the threat of mosquito bites. Work towards eliminating all standing water and possible mosquito breeding sites. Nextgen Pest Solutions can treat your yard for mosquitos for season long enjoyment or for a special occasion. Hosting a BBQ or a special outdoor event? If the buzzing of mosquitos and bloody slaps on the arm is not your vision for the party, our mosquito experts can get your back yard celebration ready and mosquito free.