Mosquitoes are no longer merely summer’s party-poopers, they have turned into dangerous guests. While we know that many mosquito-borne viruses have been around for centuries there are two serious ones that have impacted North America in recent years.
- West Nile Virus: Symptoms range from very mild to encephalitis/meningitis to death. Transmitted to birds, horses and humans. Most at risk – the very old and the very young.
- Zika Virus: May cause neurological defects in babies, muscle weakness, paralysis and death. Most at risk – pregnant women.
It is therefore essential that we do what we can to prevent mosquito bites.
Mosquitoes – Preferences:
You know how you’re hiking with a group of friends and the mosquitoes like one person best? There is truth to that. Some people do attract mosquitoes more than others.
- Carbon Dioxide attracts mosquitoes and of course we emit carbon dioxide when we do anything – breathe, talk, walk, or eat. Breathing is rather necessary but maybe we could talk or eat less while outside?
- The more you sweat, and the older the sweat is, the more mosquitoes you will attract.
- Exercise produces sweat and panting (release of carbon dioxide). For the very active person a strong mosquito repellent will probably be necessary. (See the Consumer Report Paragraph at the end of this article).
- For some reason mosquitoes like people with blood type O while anyone with blood type A will be last choice.
- Anyone with high uric acid levels tend to attract mosquitoes. If you fall in this category, up your Vitamin C and Citric Acid intake. A couple of tablespoon apple cider vinegar added to citrus juice/fruit salad/salad dressing will help balance things out.
- For many people beer is the drink of choice during the summer. Unfortunately, unless they want to get bitten, they may have to change their beer to lemonade, at least while they’re outdoors.
Mosquitoes – Prevention:
While it’s impossible to eliminate every mosquito from your yard, there are steps we can take to make our yards less appealing to them.
- The most obvious one – remove all standing water. This includes empty planters, wheelbarrows, old tires, bottles, cans and other containers left laying around, unused wading pools, pool covers, bird baths. Keep gutters/storm drains free from debris, cover rain barrels with fine mesh. Any water features should have a pump to keep water moving.
- Add lots of mosquito repelling plants to the flowerbeds and along walkways – Lavender, Lemon Balm, Basil, Marigolds, Lemongrass, Citronella, Catnip, Spearmint.
Banish them while you’re enjoying the outdoors:
- Throw a few Rosemary stems on the BBQ. This adds flavour to foods while keeping mosquitoes away.
- Place a variety of pots with mosquito repelling plants around the deck or patio and use one as a centrepiece(s) for your patio table.
- Add a few drops of pure Citronella oil to beeswax candles. Do not buy the cheap citronella candles or rings found at Dollar stores. They are ineffective and toxic.
- When sitting outside, place a fan behind you. Mosquitoes are very light and the breeze will just blow them away.
Ways for you to be less appealing to mosquitoes:
- Wear light colour clothes – the darker the clothes, the greater the chance mosquitoes will find you.
- Mosquitoes have a great sense of smell and are attracted to scents. Best not to use anything scented – perfumes, soap, shampoos, etc.
- If possible, wear long sleeves, long pants, hats and socks. Don’t wear baggy clothes that could trap mosquitoes and so be carried indoors.
- Use the right kind of mosquito repellent applicable to the situation.
Mosquitoes – Repellents:
Mosquitoes like the early morning and the hours around sunset best. If you’re going to be outside during those times take extra precautions.
There are a number of homemade Mosquito Repellents that work for around the patio and in the backyard. For camping, hiking and other outdoor activities where mosquitoes are in abundance stronger products are recommended.
Homegrown Mosquito Repellents: Some of the safest mosquito repellents for use around the home are the ones you can easily grow in your garden. You can also use these on pets.
- If you don’t have lavender growing in your flower bed, window-box or herb/vegetable garden, now is the perfect time to plant a few. To use as a mosquito repellent, just rub your hands up and down the lavender stems a few times to transfer the oils, then rub the exposed skin areas with your hands. Pin a sprig of lavender to the back of your hat.
- Lemon Balm, an easy to grow, attractive perennial suitable for any garden site is another great mosquito repellent and used the same way as lavender. Rub the leaves, then rub exposed skin. You can also pick a large bunch, boil it and strain it into a spray bottle. Add a drop of apple cider vinegar if you like. Lemon Balm smells nice and refreshing.
- Basil is an easy to grow annual that can be used in the same way as Lavender or Lemon Balm.
- Place a few stalks on the grill when barbecuing.
- Bruise a basil leaf and rub it on exposed skin.
- Bruise a leaf and pin it to shirt sleeves or hat.
Homemade Mosquito Repellents: Not for use on children under three:
- Mix Avon Skin So Soft with an equal quantity Witch Hazel. Pour into a spray bottle. Be careful to avoid contact with mouth, nose and eyes. Shake before using. Must be re-applied every 2-3 hours.
- Mix 1/8 cup Pure Lemon Eucalyptus Oil with 1 cup Witch Hazel. Pour into a spray bottle. Be careful to avoid contact with mouth, nose and eyes. Shake before using. Must be re-applied every 2-3 hours.
Purchased Mosquito Repellents: These are stronger than the homegrown/homemade versions but make the most sense if you’re camping, hiking, etc. in mosquito territory. When using strong mosquito repellents containing DEET, it’s best to spray your clothes, hat and shoes/boots, rather than directly on your skin.
StealStreet Brookyo Mosquito Repellent Bracelet: These microfiber bracelets and patches will stay fresh for up to 7 days with pleasant smell of natural essential oils that bugs are repelled by – great for adults, teens, kids, safe for babies and even dogs
- Sawyer Picaridin: Chosen top insect repellent by Consumer Reports. Effective against the Yellow Fever Mosquito, which can transmit the Zika Virus; Insect-killing repellent for your clothing is effective against ticks, chiggers, mites and mosquitoes; as effective as 100 percent DEET; Lasts up to 6 weeks (or 6 washings). Ideal for hunters, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts.
- Off! Deepwoods: Not oily or greasy; Repels mosquitoes, ticks, biting flies, chiggers and gnats; A must-have for camping, fishing, hunting and boating; repels mosquitoes that may carry West Nile Virus.
- Before buying any mosquito repelling gadgets do a thorough check of the product. Most of them have little value and some are just plain annoying.
The following information is quoted from Consumer Reports To read more, click on the link.
“ The most effective products against Aedes mosquitoes (the ones that carry the Zika virus) were Sawyer Picaridin and Natrapel 8 Hour, which each contain 20 percent picaridin, and Off! Deepwoods VIII, which contains 25 percent deet. They kept the mosquitoes from biting for about 8 hours. The Sawyer product was our top insect repellent overall. It was the only one that also kept Culex mosquitoes, which can spread West Nile disease, and deer ticks, which can spread Lyme disease, away for at least 8 hours.”
While I’m all for natural non-toxic mosquito repellents, sometimes they do not provide enough protection and I would rather use a strong repellent than take a chance on catching a mosquito-borne virus.
Talk to you again next week,
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