Thursday, July 3, 2014

Mosquitoes Bite!



Mosquitoes are the deadliest animal on the planet as well as being a major annoyance.

Much of the upper mid-West is having a very wet summer.  In fact, it is raining outside my picture window right now.  All that rain is great for the corn crop.  It also produces a bumper crop of mosquitoes.

My oldest daughter is spending her summer in Miami, Florida....right down town in Little Havana....right next to open water.  Miami and Southern Louisiana have a very dynamic and complex mix of Caribbean and Central American immigrants.  Some of them enter the US via "undocumented channels".

According to the CDC, denghereue, yellow fever, malaria, chikungunya fever are all endemic to the Caribbean and Central America, all persist in the carrier's blood stream and are all vectored by mosquitoes.

What attracts mosquitoes?


Good article here .

Some people are "super attractive" to mosquitoes.  It is not just one thing that attracts mosquitoes, it is a complex stew of CO2, exhaled metabolic byproducts, skin odor, humidity, blood type, "secretor status".

While I don't plan to stop emitting CO2 for another forty years or so, there are some easy things one can do to reduce one's attractiveness to mosquitoes.

There is no absolute way to prevent every and all mosquitoes from biting you. Rather, mosquito bite prevention is an endeavor of trying to lessen the amount of bites than trying to eliminate the possibility all together. As professor Verhulst said above, a multi-faceted approach towards inhibiting mosquito bites is often the best strategy anyone can take. From here

Buy and use fans


Yes, AC is a wonderful thing.  I am not proposing using fans instead of AC.  Rather, I propose using many fans with AC.

Fans move air.  That disperses all of those odor/attractants your body is spewing like a bonfire burning tires on a crystal clear, dead- calm October day.  Every fire department in three counties can see the smoke plume.  Moving the air disperses the odor trail.  Moving the air quickly enough makes it turbulent and that really mixes the odor trail...to the point where it cannot be followed.

Moving air also tends to cool exposed skin.  Mosquitoes also find prey by infrared emissions.  Cool skin is good.  Sleeping in a cool room also keeps you under blankets.  The less uncovered skill, the better.

Fans are energy efficient.  One fan uses about 10% of the electricity of an air conditioner.  Nobody with a brain would ever suggest running the AC out on the patio (in part, because the cool air is not contained and would disperse.)  However, you will be considered brilliant if you run a gang of fans.

This class of fan is often used to dry wet floors.  It is the cat's meow for deterring the mosquitoes that bite ankles.

One of the beautiful things about ceiling fans is that they create air movement at ground level.  That is where most of the mosquitoes loaf as they await their next meal.  Be mindful that running fans for outdoor mosquito control means you need to create air movement from ground level up to 8' elevation.

As a final note concerning fans, mosquitoes do not need to bite you to keep you awake.  The simple hum of a mosquito will keep most people awake.  This may be biologically hardwired into us!  The white noise from a fan will mask any hummers and help you go to sleep. 

Bathe


Skin odors attract mosquitoes.  Take a quick, cool shower before going into high mosquito environments.

Protective clothes


Long pants.  Long sleeve blouses/shirts.  Blouses and shirts long enough so that no midriff is exposed. Mid-calf socks.  Light colors are less attractive to mosquitoes than darker colors.  There are good reasons why all of those tropical explorers wore light tan and khaki colors.  You still see the guys hoeing onions on the local muck fields (drained swamps with wet ditches around the perimeter) dressed the same way.  Long sleeves, loose fitting except for cuffs, light colors.

Mosquito netting


Consider mosquito netting over your bed.  Canopy beds were not just cool or romantic.  They were highly functional.  That canopy was there to support mosquito netting during the warm months.



You may consider a functional canopy to be quaintly old fashioned but consider the effects of a direct hit by a hurricane:
-Broken windows
-Breached house exterior (limbs and blown trash punching holes in the roof and sheathing.)
-Pooling water everywhere
-Power outages (No AC.  Fans are a possibility if you have a generator, but not AC)

Pre-made canopies can be had for $45.  Mosquito netting runs about $4 a yard (72 inches wide!) from local fabric stores.  You will not be able to buy it for love or money after a hurricane.

Diet


So far there is no conclusive evidence that diet can make you more-or-less attractive to mosquitoes.

Anecdotally, some people swear by eating lots of garlic.  One must wonder if the folklore regarding garlic repelling vampires was inferred from the effectiveness of garlic repelling mosquitoes or vice versa.  The inability of science to verify garlic's effectiveness may be due the fact that most states harbor between 50 and 80 species of mosquitoes.  That, compounded with the variation in human scents may confound the results, i.e., interactions.  In simple English, garlic may work for some people but not for others.  Garlic may repel some species of blood suckers but not others.

The prime mosquito attractant in human breath (after CO2) is octenol.  Octenol is a metabolic byproduct of linoleic acid.  Linoleic acid is a major component of most vegetable oils.  Mosquito avoidance is just one more reason to reduce the amount of oils (and fats) in your diet so they contribute less than 30% of your calorie intake.

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