Buzz Kill

Keep­ing bit­ing bugs at bay: New for­mu­las, cloth­ing and tech­nol­ogy

Cabin Living - - Contents - By Lisa Mey­ers McClintick

Keep­ing bit­ing bugs at bay: New for­mu­las, cloth­ing and tech­nol­ogy

Noth­ing ru­ins a re­lax­ing evening out­doors quite like the preda­tory whine of per­sis­tent mos­qui­toes. “Mos­qui­toes find hu­man be­ings like sharks in wa­ter,” says Joseph Con­lon, tech­ni­cal ad­vi­sor for Amer­i­can Mos­quito Con­trol As­so­ci­a­tion. Mos­qui­toes can de­tect car­bon diox­ide that peo­ple ex­hale, sense oils on their skin and follow other smells that draw them in for a blood­suck­ing feast.

If that’s not frus­trat­ing enough, there are 174 mos­quito species in the United States and no magic for­mula for ban­ning them from the back­yard—the place where ev­ery­one hopes to sa­vor the balmy last gasps of sum­mer and crisp au­tumn evenings.

Beyond the an­noy­ance of bites, more than 12,700 West Nile virus cases were re­ported in less than 10 years, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol, along with newer con­cerns such as dengue fever. Mos­qui­toes spread th­ese dis­eases.

“It only takes that one bite, and you’ve got West Nile Virus,” Con­lon says.

For­tu­nately, new tech­nol­ogy, bet­ter re­pel­lent for­mu­las and a drive for more or­ganic op­tions makes keep­ing bugs at bay slightly eas­ier. It’s still good, though, to start with the ba­sics.

“We ad­vo­cate the three D’s: drain, dress and de­fend,” Con­lon says. Here are some of the best ways to keep mos­qui­toes and other bit­ing in­sects off the guest list.

Elim­i­nate Wa­ter

If you en­joy hav­ing foun­tains or bird­baths in your gar­den and yard, make sure the wa­ter is con­tin­u­ally mov­ing or emp­tied and fresh­ened ev­ery few days. Get rid of any stand­ing wa­ter that may be pool­ing in wheel­bar­rows, on rain bar­rels or trapped in gut­ters that haven’t been cleaned out.

Stand­ing wa­ter acts like a red-car­pet invitation for fe­male mos­qui­toes that can lay thou­sands of eggs sev­eral times a sum­mer. Con­lon says he’s seen mos­qui­toes breed in as lit­tle as an eighth-inch of wa­ter that col­lected in a soda bot­tle cap.

If it seems like out­door bit­ing has in­ten­si­fied, it could be a fresh, hun­gry hatch.

Embrace the Light

When mos­qui­toes grav­i­tate to­ward some peo­ple more than oth­ers, it could be their fra­grance or their sense of style.

If you’re go­ing to be out­side dur­ing peak feast­ing hours—near dusk or early in the morn­ing—skip colognes and dark cloth­ing you might have worn to mask grass stains or dripped bar­be­cue sauce. Mos­qui­toes shy away from lighter cloth- ing (pos­si­bly in­tu­it­ing that the light color makes them eas­ier to spot and swat).

Tight cloth­ing with loose weaves, such as yoga pants, cot­ton or jersey knits also make it eas­ier for bugs to bite through fab­ric. Choose loose-fit­ting tighter weaves like a crisp cot­ton shirt, long cargo pants or a light­weight wa­ter­re­pel­lant shell jacket.

If you’re out­doors fre­quently, you can invest in spe­cial­ized cloth­ing that helps re­pel mos­qui­toes as well as black flies, chig­gers and ticks, which come in a close sec­ond as Amer­ica’s most de­spised in­sect, Con­lon says.

Many out­door cloth­ing com­pa­nies now sell cloth­ing treated with per­me­thrin, which the mil­i­tary has used in its uni­forms for years. This syn­thetic ver­sion of pyrethrum, a nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring chem­i­cal found in chrysan­the­mums, can usu­ally last through about 70 wash­ings. Look for brands such as In­sec­tShield, Bugs Away and Buzz Off.

Com­pa­nies such as Sawyer sell per­me­thrin spray to treat your own clothes. The treat­ment lasts about six wash­ings.

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