The 3 Things You Need to Know To Protect Your Home and Family From Mosquitoes
Mosquitoes are the most dangerous insect because of their ability to rapidly spread disease. They are widespread around the world affecting urban, suburban, and rural populations. The good news is, there are steps you can take to protect your family and prevent mosquito-borne illnesses. Find out below how you can control this minuscule menace.
1. Mosquitoes are a serious health risk.
At best, mosquitoes are nuisance when they bite you; leaving an itchy, red bump behind. At their worst, mosquitoes can transmit a variety of diseases. At times this can be life-threatening to people. The diseases vary from Malaria to Yellow Fever, and encephalitis.
Fortunately, many of the diseases transmitted by mosquitoes are well controlled in the U.S., but there are a few you should be aware of:
- Dengue — a virus that can be transmitted to people after being bitten by an infected mosquito; most common in tropical areas; can be fatal if untreated, but has low mortality rate with good medical management. Symptoms include fever, headaches, fatigue, and joint pain.
- Chikungunya — a virus that can be transmitted to people after being bitten by an infected mosquito; low mortality rate. Symptoms include fever and joint pain.
- West Nile— a widespread virus with flu-like symptoms that can be transmitted to people, birds, and horses after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
- Zika— a virus that can be transmitted to people through mosquito bites, sexual contact, or passed from a pregnant woman to her unborn child. Symptoms are usually mild and people may not even know they are infected, but Zika has been linked to severe fetal brain defects.
2. Not all mosquitoes are the same.
Some mosquitos are daytime feeders; some are nighttime biters. Others are most active at dawn and dusk. There are many different kinds of mosquitoes, but to prevent disease and protect your family, you need to be concerned about the Aedes and Culex groups.
Aedes mosquitoes, such as the Asian tiger mosquito, can transmit dengue, chikungunya, Zika, and yellow fever viruses in the United States. They are most active during the day. They may be found all over the country, but are most common along the east coast and southern states.
Culex mosquitoes, commonly referred to as house mosquitoes, can transmit West Nile. They usually rest during the day and are most likely to bite at dusk and after dark. They can be found all across America.
Pest control is easier and more effective when you know what attracts mosquitoes. Only female mosquitoes bite people or animals, because they need blood to produce and lay eggs.
Mosquitoes use their sense of smell to detect carbon dioxide from a person or animal as far as 50 feet away when looking for a blood meal. They can also see movement and sense body heat to help them find targets.
3. To protect your family from mosquito-borne illness, you need to prevent and repel mosquitoes.
The key to effective mosquito control relies on both public and individual efforts. Public agencies track the spread of mosquito-borne illnesses. They attempt to control mosquito populations with environmental and chemical methods. Individuals can help by making sure their homes and property don’t provide desirable conditions for mosquitoes.
DIY tips to prevent mosquitoes:
- Eliminate standing water around your home — this is a prime breeding ground for mosquitoes. This includes less obvious places like planters, dog dishes, and children’s toys.
- Clear rain gutters; any leaves or debris creating a block will lead to stagnant water.
- Use screens on windows, doors, and outdoor spaces whenever possible. Repair holes and keep them well maintained.
- Repair leaky outdoor faucets.
- Change the water in outdoor birdbaths weekly — mosquito larvae need 7-10 days in water to reach maturity.
- Reduce vegetation near your house and regularly mow your lawn.
How to choose the best mosquito repellent
Many products claim to protect you from mosquitoes and other insects, but how do you know which ones really work? Finding the right repellent for you takes more thought than just grabbing the closest can of bug spray. You need to be sure the pesticides you use to protect your home are in fact, safe for your family. If you are pregnant, have small children, or pets, you probably have even more concerns.
Area Repellents — Candles, Diffusers, etc…
While studies have shown inconsistent results from products such as citronella candles, you probably already own an easy answer to getting rid of insects outdoors — a box or oscillating fan! Mosquitoes and other flying insects will be greatly reduced in areas with a steady breeze.
The principal of ultrasonic devices is to create a loud noise above the range of human hearing (above 18-20 kHz) that is unpleasant to pest species. Basically the theory is that the sound drives them away. Here are the challenges with Ultrasonic devices:
- Animals can adapt to most situations, and in a short amount of time they become accustomed to the sound
- Studies show ultrasonic devices will not drive pests away if food, water, and shelter are available
- Ultrasonic devices can be heard by dogs, cats, hamsters, gerbils, and other pet mammals. They have also been shown to cause hearing loss in dogs and experts want that they should not be used if you have pets.
Traps & bug zappers.
For a trap to be effective, it needs to attract the target pest. Preventing pest problems before they begin is more effective than intentionally attracting and then trapping or killing mosquitoes and other pests. Bug zappers or electric control devices are not effective at managing mosquito populations. While they may kill or ‘zap’ a large number of insects, they are not limited to mosquitoes. These types of devices can harm beneficial insects such as pollinators like bees, moths, and butterflies, as well as natural predators of mosquitoes like dragonflies.
EPA-registered repellents are the best choice.
The Environmental Protection Agency extensively reviews products before they can earn registration. When used according to label direction, EPA-registered repellents pose minimal risk to human safety. Four different active ingredients have been registered with the EPA as safe and effective for repelling mosquitoes:
1. DEET — Safe for use on infants as young 2 months.
3. Oil of lemon eucalyptus — Not for use on children under age 3.
While a product may contain an EPA registered active ingredient, concentrations may vary, and inactive ingredients may affect efficacy. A reliable resource like Consumer Reports can help you research and compare products to find what’s right for you.