As the weather begins to warm, people look for more things to do outside — more picnics, camping, fishing, hiking, sports, etc. The warmer weather also means the flight of the mosquito, though there are species that are just at home in colder weather.
People spend millions of dollars a year trying to eradicate this blood sucking vampire. And, with so much information on the internet, it can be hard to discern what works and what doesn’t work. I know everyone has their lotion, potion, wonder cream or gizmo they swear by, but what makes these pesky critters tick? I mean what is it that attracts them to humans, and some more than others? Perhaps if we could find the answer to that measures could then be taken to better control the onslaught.
Scientist have been working hard to solve the mosquito mystery. And, while they don’t have all the answers, here is what they do know as it pertains to humans:
- There are over 2000 species of mosquitos
- Only the female is the blood sucker
- Genetics is a big factor on how attractive you are as a host to a mosquito. (blame your parents)
- They are attracted to carbon dioxide
- They are attracted to lactic acid build up
- They are attracted to dark color clothing
- They are attracted to movement
- They are attracted to the heat signature of bodies.
- They are attracted to perfumes
- They are attracted to Limburger cheese (don’t walk around with limburger cheese)
- They are attracted to smelly feet
- They are most active at dusk and dawn, though some are active throughout the day, as well.
- Some mosquitos are active during cold periods, as well
- One Study showed increased activity, by 500% during a full moon
Diseases they can transmit:
- Mosquitos are not carriers for HIV.
- They can transmit Malaria
- They can transmit Encephalitis
- They can transmit West Nile Virus
- They can transmit Dengue Fever
- They can transmit Yellow Fever
- They can transmit Rift Valley Fever
- They nest in standing pools of water
- They nest in grasses, so all those beautiful pictures of mountain prairies are breeding grounds
There are a lot of other facts, but these are the ones that play a vital role surrounding our outdoor activities.
The CDC has so far, as of this writing, found 4 repellents that can be applied to the skin and are effective at combating these pesky critters:
- DEET (Please be aware that it can dissolve some fabrics and plastics)
- Picaridin (Sold as Off)
- Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (PMD is the synthesized version)
- IR3535 (can be found in AVON Bug Guard)
This information is not intended to be the be all end all on mosquitos, rather just an extraction of pertinent information for campers, backpackers, and anyone else who enjoys spending time outdoors.
I realize there are alternatives to the mentioned mosquito repellents, such as citronella and others, as well as clothes embedded with permethrin, but that wasn’t the scope of this article.