This summer like any other summer, mosquitoes are an irritating reality to outdoor activities, but there are ways to keep yourself bite-free at the end of the night.
Purdue extension specialist and insect diagnostician Timothy Gibb explained the best way to avoid spending the entire summer swatting mosquitoes. Whether camping, jogging or just sitting in a backyard, there is a way to keep the summer pests at bay.
Mosquitoes tend to have denser populations in certain areas than other. Gibb said finding areas with some elevation and a little bit of wind help.
“The more you distance yourself from those areas that have high amounts of vegetation and water, the better off you’re going to be,” Gibb said. “But that’s not the fun part (of being outdoors). So it’s a trade-off.”
Gibb also added mosquitoes are more active during certain times of the day. Mosquitoes are most active at sunset and sunrise. During the daytime and nighttime, mosquitoes don’t tend to bite as often.
In a backyard, the most important thing to control is standing water.
“Habitat reduction is what we call it,” Gibb said. “If you remove the areas where (mosquitoes) breed, you won’t have mosquitoes.”
Gibb recommended that citizens look in their backyards and even neighboring backyards for stagnant water that might breed mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes have mechanisms other than their vision to find humans. Understanding those methods can help avoid days of itchy bites.
“(Mosquitoes) trail CO2. So anything that’s breathing ... they are going to zero in on,” Gibb said. “When they get a little closer, they hone in on heat body signature.”
Gibb added there is evidence that organic odors can also attract mosquitoes. That means stinky feet can increase the chances of being bitten. There is very little evidence that any other factors can attract mosquitoes. Contrary to popular belief, lotions, deodorants or perfumes do not have a bearing on whether or not mosquitoes will bite.
“If a mosquito is hungry, it’s going to find you and bite,” Gibb said.
Despite the wives tales that circulate around mosquito repellant, there are really only two ways to effectively keep mosquitoes at bay.
Long clothing that covers skin will keep mosquitoes off of skin, preventing them from biting. Repellants like Deet or Picaridin can be applied to skin per directions to avoid being bitten.
“We recommend Deet,” Gibb said. “And using that per labeled directions is probably the bet way to protect yourself in nature.”
The Environmental Protection Agency determined in a 2014 review that the normal use of Deet is safe for the general population, including children.
Dealing with mosquito bites is the worst-case scenario and Gibb said there aren’t a lot of options for handling it.
When a mosquito bites, it injects some of its saliva into the body, causing a small allergic reaction. Gibb said the best way to handle mosquito bites is Benadryl for the itch and time to heal.
“There are a billion home remedies out there because any time that a person has a bit, they are going to be looking for some way to cure it,” Gibb said. “They’ll come up with some voodoo-type remedy and by three or four days, it’s going to be gone and they’re going to say, ‘Hey, look! Cause and effect. I applied this and it worked.’ The reality is that it probably would have been gone three or four days later, anyways.”
Gibb also mentioned it is nearly impossible to determine whether a bite is from a mosquito or a chigger or a bed bug. The best way to tell if a bite is from a mosquito is to have seen the mosquito when it bit.