Keep the Mosquitoes Away and Enjoy the Outdoors This Summer!
I have always hated mosquitoes. ALWAYS. HATED.
I am that person whom the flying blood suckers search for and destroy by biting me in rapid succession on any tiny patch of skin they find in the cracks between shirts, pants, and socks. I have been known to wear long sleeves and pants on the hottest of days to avoid bites.
I don’t just endure bites, but they are, in fact, mammoth sized itchy welts that linger for days. I simply hate them even though my daughter tells me all about the life cycles of bats, frogs, and other creepy creatures that eat them for survival. I am undeterred; my quest for eradication continues.
Admittedly, this Zika scare is freaking me out. Not just for me or the masses of people who are more prone to mosquito bites, but of course for my daughter and her potential children down the line. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working furiously to figure out all of the details regarding different modes of transmission of the disease, but they are frank in letting the public know they just don’t know all the facts yet.
Don’t forget, mosquitoes are responsible for other diseases such as malaria, West Nile virus, elephantiasis, dengue fever, and yellow fever. Gratefully, these infections are specific to certain geographic areas and are typically rare for us in the United States, but international travelers should always be extra cautious. Please also remember your dog, who can contract heartworm disease from mosquitoes if not treated with preventative medication.
So what are we supposed to do while vaccines and other fool proof prevention techniques are perfected?
The answer is, a little bit of everything, because nothing works 100%.
What the Experts Say
The American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA) offers an easy guide to follow which breaks down many of the prevention and destroying techniques into three "D" categories. Briefly, here are few of their suggestions, but read the full guide for thorough advice.
- It doesn’t take much water to lay thousands of baby mosquito eggs. Remove all standing water. Small cut outs of children’s playground equipment, discarded but half full water bottles, and overturned garbage can tops are all excellent breeding ground choices.
- Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers to make sure water doesn’t collect.
- Clear roof gutters of debris because mosquitoes like cool, damp, and dark spaces.
- Mosquitoes prefer dark clothing so light, loose fitting outfits are best.
- Mosquitoes can actually bite through tight clothing! No, our beloved yoga pants will not help prevent mosquito attacks.
The three repellents AMCA recommends are:
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus
Consumer Reports echoes AMCA’s advice for removing any source of water, including leaking outdoor spigots but adds its own two cents for warding off the buggers. Plus, they discuss the mosquito’s hateful cousin, the tick.
- Wear repellent treated clothing.
- Use oscillating fans when enjoying outdoor spaces because mosquitoes are poor fliers.
- Do not use aftershave or perfume and scented lotions. Mosquitoes love the sweet smells.
Flowers and Plants to the Rescue
Speaking of outdoor spaces--what a waste those beautifully decorated decks and patios become when riddled by mosquitoes during peak entertaining hours of dinner and dusk. When performing other summer home maintenance chores, consider this extra layer of mosquito repellent to add to your arsenal: flowers and plants.
Yes, these multi-taskers can beautify your outdoor space, feed your family, and ward off mosquitoes in various ways. Plants repel the bugs either by masking your human sweat scent and the body’s carbon dioxide emitted, or they release a smell mosquitoes can’t stand. Take a look at a few of the most popular options for garden beds and container planting.
Eucalyptus is a barrier that mosquitoes will avoid temporarily, so rub a few leaves on exposed skin for protection during brief gardening sessions.
Basil works very well because of the scent it produces, even without crushing or bruising the leaves. The odor is unpleasant to mosquitoes. Lemon and Cinnamon Basil seem to be the most pungent.
Likewise, these popular plants deter bothersome mosquitoes:
- Wild Sage
- Lemon Thyme
- Lemongrass provides oil of citronella
Combined with other techniques, like cleaning the yard of standing water, using oscillating fans, and DEET, pots of these pretty and powerful plants surrounding entertaining or eating areas will stave off the flying beasts and increase the chances of enjoying your outdoor spaces in the evening throughout the summer months.
I certainly intend to incorporate many of these suggestions and, although controversial, I’ll even enlist the help of professionals to come spray our back yard so we can enjoy all the beautiful summer nights the season has to offer.