Every year, Man faces off against obnoxious, blood-sucking devils known as mosquitoes. This year is particularly worrisome for many women due to the rise of Zika infections in the southern United States and especially Florida. The CDC notes that so far there have been almost 2,000 total cases in the contiguous US alone. While Zika is only a true danger to pregnant women in their first trimester, the virus can be spread for several weeks after infection either through another mosquito bite or sexual activity. So, everyone can and should learn to be more cautious and take prevention seriously. For expert advice on how to get rid of mosquitos, we turned to Karen Reardon, Vice President of Public Affairs at a national trade association called Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE). RISE represents companies that manufacture and formulate the ingredients for mosquito control products.
First, it’s probably a good idea to learn a thing or two about these abominable creatures. Mosquito season varies among regions, but it’s generally at its peak in July and August. According to the American Mosquito Control Association, a single female mosquito can lay eggs once every three days, and be ultimately responsible for 400 million progeny in a single season — and that’s assuming only 25% of each generation survives.
In addition to causing itchy bumps, mosquitos are notorious disease carriers. Malaria isn’t much of an issue in the U.S. these days, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be again. Imported diseases such as Zika, West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis infect a few thousand people a year. Mosquitos are even worse for pets — thousands of dogs get heartworm from mosquitos every year. Sorry, we don’t mean to fear-monger you.
Odds are, you probably won’t catch a disease from a mosquito — especially if you heed the following advice.
Protecting Your Body
Wear light colors and long sleeves
Though summer is the ideal time for shorts and t-shirts, the exposed skin is too tempting for mosquitos. “When mosquitos are most active — during the dawn and dusk hours — it’s important to minimize the parts of your body that are exposed, where mosquitos can land to take a blood meal,” says Karen. You’ll find that light-colored, long-sleeve shirts and long pants can help discourage mosquitos while keeping you relatively cool. If the situation is especially bad, you might just stay indoors during the dusk and dawn hours.
Wear topical mosquito repellent
As humans, we don’t really appreciate it when things gets in the way of us enjoying nature. If you insist on exploring mosquito habitat (which is basically everywhere during the summer), then you’ll need a topical mosquito repellent. “Folks really should apply a protective product,” says Karen. “Products containing DEET are very effective — they’re registered with the US EPA, so they are proven effective to knock down mosquitoes. I know folks will sometimes go for other kinds of remedies or repellents that are not EPA registered, but those do not have to go through the same efficacy testing.” For safety’s sake, you should always apply topical repellents in strict accordance with the directions for use.
Get permethrin-treated clothing
Since mosquitos have been a nuisance for such a long time, you better believe that we’ve developed a number of sophisticated remedies over the years. “I think outdoor folks can also think about the option of treated clothing,” says Karen. “Permethrin-treated shirts, or hats, or other articles of clothing can help.” You can either purchase clothing that comes pre-treated with permethrin, or you can purchase permethrin yourself and apply it to your clothes. If you’re spending a lot of time outdoors, like on a backpack trip, say, you would do well to invest in a mosquito net. You probably won’t get too many prizes for fashion, but you’ll be itching a lot less.
Protecting Your Home
Get rid of standing water
Mosquitos lay their eggs in standing water; so if you get rid of the standing water on your property, there will no place for mosquitos to breed. “Empty those flower pots on your balcony, turn over anything that might collect water where mosquitoes might breed, look out for places that are attractive for their larvae–including rain gutters,” says Karen. “Similarly, if you have a yard, fill in places where water can collect, because those are also very attractive places for mosquitoes to breed.”
Talk to your neighbors
Of course, all your mosquito control efforts won’t mean much if your neighbor refuses to do diddly squat. “We often talk to people who say, ‘I do a really good job in my yard; I empty out the flower pot saucers, I flip up the grill cover, and I make sure everything’s dry — but my neighbor’s property is like a mosquito incubator.’ If you do all the right things and are still having a problem, you might want to peer over the hedge or the fence and see what’s next door — see if you can get your neighbor to cooperate with you on a mosquito control program.”
Close doors, keep up with screen repair
Mosquitos are bad enough when they’re outside your home — the last thing you want is for them to bite you while you’re on the couch finishing up season three of Orange Is the New Black. “Around the home, you can keep mosquitos out of the house by keeping screens in good repair and keeping doors closed during the times when mosquitoes are most active,” says Karen. If mosquitos are particularly bad around your property, you might consider investing in a misting system. However, you must be sure to use them properly and keep up with maintenance.
Hanging Out Around the Campfire or Patio
Mosquitos can make an activity as simple as sitting around the campfire absolutely unbearable. In addition to taking the measures above, you might consider lighting a citronella candle to provide some degree of ambient mosquito control. “Citronella is a naturally derived product that can provide some very localized relief,” says Karen. “There are also products that you can light or attach to your clothing that are registered by US EPA and repel mosquitoes. When it comes to keeping ourselves or our pets from being bitten by mosquitoes, there should be a multi-pronged approach.” According to the American Mosquito Control Association, repellents that use ultrasound technology have “no repellency value whatsoever,” so hopefully you haven’t blown some cash on one of those devices this season.
These are just a few suggestions on how to get rid of mosquitos on the trail, on your property, around the campsite, and wherever else you might encounter them. For the best results, we suggest following Karen Reardon’s advice and employing multiple mosquito control measures at once. With a little luck, you might just make it through the summer bite-free.
This piece was originally published July 21st, 2015 and updated on August 8th, 2016 by Chase McPeak.