Always a nuisance, mosquitoes can also be a public health threat. Mosquito bites can transmit viruses such as Zika, West Nile, Dengue fever, Chikungunya, the Keystone virus and other diseases into peoples’ blood streams.
You can protect yourself, your family and your community by learning more about vector-borne illness and taking steps to control mosquitoes and prevent mosquito bites. A couple of the common types of mosquitoes that can transmit different diseases include:
- Aedes mosquitoes, which carry the Zika virus and Chikungunya, are urban dwellers. They like to live indoors or near structures, and they bite all day. They often will travel less than a quarter-mile in their lifetime.
- Culex mosquitoes, which carry the West Nile Virus, fly farther and are typically active during dawn and dusk
The Keystone virus is the latest mosquito-borne illness to surface, with a confirmation of the virus in a Florida teen. The Aedes atlanticus mosquito is most well-known for carrying the Keystone virus, however Culex and other types of Aedes mosquitoes have been known to carry the virus.
Learn more about how you can help reduce the threat of mosquito-borne illnesses.
We get it. Bug repellent seems inconvenient, smelly and distracting; however, the reasons you should apply an EPA-approved bug repellent far outweigh the annoyance.
We’ve broken down five myths about mosquitoes and repellent to help you enjoy the outdoors and stay safe from biters who might be carrying Zika or West Nile.
Myth 1: “All products work just fine!”
There are many different bug repellent products on the shelves, from stylish shawls and wrist bands, to natural sprays and essential oils. However, these are not proven to repel mosquitoes and prevent bites. Even citronella candles lose effectiveness unless you’re sitting directly next to them, creating a one-candle-per-person ratio, which is probably not the ambiance you had in mind. When in doubt, always select and use EPA-approved products according to label directions.
Myth 2: “Bug repellent gets on everything, even the barbecue!”
To ensure your food isn’t “over-seasoned,” stand away from food, beverages and other people when applying repellent, and always apply outdoors. Wash your hands after applying and before you dive into the appetizers. Read label directions for frequency of reapplication. A general rule of thumb is reapplication every 4-6 hours.
A great way to ensure your plate isn’t ruined by the taste of bug repellent is to set up a designated application station away from the crowd. Fill decorative buckets with EPA-approved bug repellent and fun plastic sunglasses so friends and family can apply and reapply in style.
Myth 3: “Bug repellent? On this dress?”
There’s no need to compromise your style for mosquito protection. Bug repellents with DEET are safe to use on nylon, cotton and wool, according to label directions. Mosquitoes are attracted to dark colored fabrics, so as an added layer of defense, choose outfits with light-colored long sleeves and pants to help prevent bites.
Myth 4: “Mosquitoes won’t bite me if I keep moving!”
The lactic acid produced when you sweat and work out attracts mosquitoes, so hit the indoor gym for your summer workouts, if possible. If you are planning to exercise or play outside, be sure you apply repellent before your start working up a sweat.
Mosquitoes are also attracted to carbon dioxide, which, go figure, we all add to this problem. Pregnant women produce larger-than-normal amounts of carbon dioxide, making it increasingly important to apply EPA-approved bug repellent to prevent bites from mosquitoes potentially carrying viruses such as Zika.
Myth 5: “After you apply repellent, there’s nothing else you can do to prevent mosquitoes.”
In addition to using EPA-approved bug repellent, there are two steps you can add to your routine to help prevent mosquitoes.
- Remove standing water. This is, perhaps, the most important step, as mosquitoes can breed in water trapped inside containers as small as a bottle cap. Be sure to check all areas that might hold water like tire swings, buckets, bottles, birdbaths, pet bowls, flowerpot saucers, pool toys and yes, even bottle caps.
- Check screens on windows and doors to make sure they’re sealed, blocking points of entry, and make sure to keep doors closed, even when you’re going in and out for a backyard party.
There’s no better cure for kids’ boredom and parents’ frustration than playing outside. Think about mosquito prevention while prepping for outdoor fun. From backyard campouts, to soccer camp, to playing at the park, we’re here to help you pack the essentials needed to help you and your kids prevent mosquito bites.
Don’t give mosquitoes a fighting chance. Protect your family and your community from mosquito-borne illnesses by doing your part in and around your home to prevent mosquito bites. Follow these important steps to help control mosquitoes in your home, yard and community:
- Put up personal barriers. Wear light-colored clothing and cover up with long sleeves and pants. While many mosquitoes are particularly active during dawn and dusk hours, Aedes mosquitoes, which can transmit the Zika virus, bite all day long.
- Reinforce your home. Mosquitoes will fly through the smallest openings to enter your home. Make sure cracks and crevices in screens or on doors and windows are sealed to keep the pests out.
- Apply mosquito-specific defenses. Apply EPA-approved bug repellent, such as DEET, on exposed skin – especially your legs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a variety of safe and effective EPA-approved repellents for you and your family. Read and follow all repellent label instructions before applying.
- Get rid of standing water. Aedes mosquitoes can breed in containers as small as a bottle cap. When cleaning up around your home, empty any cans, buckets, bottles, clogged rain gutters, birdbaths, pet bowls, flowerpot saucers, water tables and plastic wading pools, which attract mosquitoes and give them a place to breed.
How to Safely Apply Bug Repellents
Personal bug repellents with a higher percentage of active ingredients, such as DEET, provide longer protection. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approves personal repellents with proven fighting power against mosquitoes and offers a search tool to help you choose the right product for your specific needs. EPA-approved repellents work best when used properly:
- Follow the rules. When choosing and applying repellents, always read and follow the label directions.
- Get picky. Go for a repellent that protects you and your family from the target pest. Read the product label to see which bugs it repels.
- A little goes a long way. Avoid over-applying repellent. Check out the label instructions to see how often you should reapply.
Most communities implement EPA-approved public health mosquito control that helps keep our families and communities safe by controlling mosquito populations. It helps reduce mosquitoes’ habitats by determining the most effective treatments to apply during different phases of the mosquito life cycle. If you have questions about the types of mosquitoes living where you live, contact your local mosquito control district. More information can be found through the EPA’s website.
Take steps to prevent mosquito populations in and around your home:
- Keep pests out by sealing your home. Seal any holes or cracks in doors and screens – mosquitoes can fit through the tiniest holes.
- Plant your garden away from exterior doors. Plant shrubs and ornamental plants away from doors and windows to ensure mosquitoes don’t have a place to hide while they wait for access to the indoors.
- Limit mosquito-friendly breeding locations around your home. Remove all standing water in bird baths, buckets, flower pots and even the smallest amount in bottle caps.
- Cut your grass. Mow your lawn regularly to remove hiding places for mosquitoes and reduce excess moisture in your grass.
Setting aside time for mosquito control as part of your everyday lawn care regimen can help prevent these pests from staking claim on your home or yard. Effective control includes mowing your yard regularly to reduce tall grass that locks in water between the blades.
Mosquito Life Cycle
It’s time for a little biology lesson. Understanding the mosquito life cycle is important if you want to keep these biters from making your home their own.
All mosquitoes go through four stages:
- Stage 1: Egg – Hatches when it’s exposed to water.
- Stage 2: Larva – Small “wriggler” that lives in water.
- Stage 3: Pupa – Larger than larva and still in the water. It does not fly.
- Stage 4: Adult – Leaves the water and able to fly shortly after.
A mosquito typically lives up to two weeks, but it can live as long as one month depending on conditions. For example, eggs can survive longer in dry conditions.
Effective control depends on removal of breeding sites and monitoring and treating for mosquitoes in each of the four stages of the life cycle. Look for products that treat the specific life stage of your mosquito problem, or ask your pest control professional how they’re managing the mosquito populations in your yard.
Options for Yard Treatment (DIY)
Weeds and shrubs are safe havens for mosquitoes. Reduce mosquito populations in your yard by:
- Weeding and mowing the lawn regularly, which helps reduce mosquitoes’ ideal habitat.
- Incorporating mosquito control into your lawn care routine by taking an integrated approach, including removing sources of standing water, mowing and weed control.
- Applying mosquito treatments. Select an EPA-approved product labeled to control mosquitoes, and read and follow all label directions.
- Contacting your local extension office or mosquito control district if you have questions.
When applying mosquito control products, make sure to:
- Always read and follow all label directions
- Choose an EPA-approved product to ensure the product will work as intended on the target pest
- Learn more about control products and their application here.
Hiring a Professional? Here’s What You Need to Know.
As you take steps to protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites, you may consider reaching out to a professional to treat your property. When choosing a professional, be sure to ask questions that help you understand their experience, training and licensing and whether or not they approach mosquito control with an integrated solution.
Here are a few questions you may want to consider when talking to a professional applicator:
- Are you a licensed applicator?
- How long have you been in business?
- How long have your been treating for mosquitoes?
- What training has your team completed specific to mosquito control?
- What will the treatment be and what do I need to know about it?
In the aftermath of a hurricane, impacted areas become breeding grounds for mosquitoes often due to due to the combination of deep floodwaters, downed trees and overgrown grass. These are prime conditions for mosquitoes to multiply at a rapid rate.
Floodwater, Salt Marsh and Container Mosquitoes
After the recent hurricanes in the Gulf Coast, three types of mosquitoes are raising different concerns based on their location, life cycle and ability to spread disease.
- Floodwater mosquitoes live inland and lay their eggs in dry or moist soil. When floodwaters are present, these eggs will hatch, creating mosquito larvae which become adult mosquitoes. These eggs can hatch in as little as one week.
- Salt Marsh mosquitoes live on the coast in salty wetlands and dense marshes. Similar to floodwater mosquitoes, these eggs hatch when a large amount of water is present. In the event of a hurricane, storm surge provides this increase of water, which contributes to an increase in salt marsh mosquitoes.
- Container mosquitoes, including Aedes aegypti and aedes albopictus, breed in any and all standing water – including tires and bird baths, along with areas that are stagnant after flooding. These are the types of mosquitoes that have the ability to transmit the Zika virus.
After flooding subsides, floodwater and salt marsh mosquitoes will stick around for about two to four weeks, or until another big rain storm. Floodwater mosquitoes will lay eggs along the embankments in these flooded communities as floodwaters try to drain.
Container mosquitoes can be a cause for concern as they will be the second wave of mosquitoes with the ability to transmit disease.
The public health departments in the affected areas will be implementing treatment plans to provide relief from mosquitoes as people return home and begin to rebuild their lives.
State and local governments contract with professional mosquito control services for aerial applications of mosquito treatment products to knock down the mosquito population that is creating nuisance and health issues for responders and residents. According to Dr. Sonja Swiger, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension entomologist and assistant professor, aerial application is one of the only ways to successfully rid hurricane-impacted areas of adult mosquitoes and halt additional breeding. The CDC provides information and answers to common questions about aerial application.
Container mosquitoes will be searching for places to lay eggs; specifically, areas of standing water in and around homes in containers even as small as a bottle cap. Mosquito dunks used according to label directions can eliminate mosquito eggs and larvae in standing water like ponds and pools. While this won’t eliminate adult mosquitoes, it will control future mosquito populations; this is significant as each each female mosquito can lay up to 200 new eggs after just one bite.
Cleanup Crew Protection
Mosquito control efforts can provide relief to cleanup crews in affected areas who are exposed to nuisance mosquitoes.
In addition to efforts to control mosquito populations, first responders and volunteers should consider using permethrin-treated clothing since some floodwater mosquitoes have the ability to bite through clothes. Other options are to wear protective gear such as mosquito nets and suits, as well as apply EPA-approved repellent according to label directions.