With the appearance of the first itchy, swollen, red bites each summer, the battle lines are drawn. For those unfortunate folk who seem to be irresistible to mosquitoes, the sunshine and soaring temperatures are the backdrop for all-out, human-versus-insect warfare.
If this sounds like a familiar scenario, try these strategies to thwart the dastardly designs of these vampiric pests before you resort to chemical sprays ...
Remove standing water
Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. This provides the perfect nursery for their young to hatch, pupate and emerge as adults. It’s the adult females that get us, leaving behind their calling-card itchy bites.
To reduce the number of mosquito breeding sites close to your house, the British Pest Control Association (BPCA) advises checking for, and draining, as much standing water as possible. This means keeping gutters clear so that rainwater doesn’t collect in them – although, the chances of this are slim in the ongoing warm weather we’re experiencing.
Uncovered water butts are another attractive egg-laying location, so it’s a good idea to prioritise using the water that’s collected inside it over the hosepipe to water the garden. This helps ensure the water butt is regularly drained, to be replenished next time it rains. Covering water butts will also help.
Drain paddling pools regularly
At this time of year, paddling pools and children’s water play tables are a regular sight on lawns across the UK. The water in these can attract mosquitoes if it’s not regularly changed.
It takes between six to ten days for a young mosquito to hatch from its egg and mature into an adult. Common sense suggests, then, that if water is left for longer than five days, it’s an open invitation for a mozzie breeding fiesta.
Change bedding and nightwear frequently
We now know that the reason mosquitoes are so adept at hunting us down is because they can detect the carbon dioxide we exhale. They then follow this trail of C02 back to its source – us.
Stopping breathing is an impractical solution with inevitable and undesirable side effects. But this doesn’t mean we are powerless to try to outwit these persistent blood-suckers.
Scientists at the University of California have found that mosquitoes are also drawn to our skin odour, which could explain their incredible success rate tracking down the tiniest area of uncovered ankle or arm. It might also go some way to understanding why they seem to be prey upon some of us more than others, perhaps preferring the skin scent of one individual over another.
A shower before bedtime could help, as could regularly changing bedding and nightwear.
Don’t ditch the citronella just yet
Our scientist friends across the pond are also researching the reason why some aromas seem to turn mosquitoes off. The theory is that certain naturally-occurring, naturally-scented chemicals stop mosquitoes being able to detect our natural human skin scent.