Dealing with mosquitoes
Defence is the best form of attack if you want to avoid being bitten this season
Q Every summer, we have a problem with mozzies and we’ve have tried everything. What’s the best way to avoid being bitten?
A They are the unwanted house guests we can expect each summer, and although we probably can’t completely live without mosquitoes, there are ways to live with them says medical entomologist Dr Cameron Webb (pictured) of the University of Sydney.
Watch out for water
“While some mosquitoes love breeding in large wetlands, others can exploit tiny amounts of water such as pot plant saucers, a discarded plastic takeaway food container and even an upturned lid of a soft drink bottle,” Cameron says. He says a few hacks around the home can help reduce opportunities for mosquitoes to breed. “Throw out or cover up any buckets, bins or other structures designed to store water, make sure your rainwater tank is properly installed and screened, clean out roof gutters and drains so that water doesn’t get trapped, flush out bird baths, pets’ water bowls, and water-holding plants, like bromeliads, once a week,” he says.
To spray or not to spray
There are dozens of insecticides on the market, but Cameron says it is best to consider the risks, not only to your household, but to the non-pest insects you might like sharing your home with. “Sometimes it is good to have other insects around the home to help control mosquitoes,” he says. “Spiders can also do a great job of catching mosquitoes, as do other insects, birds, frogs and lizards. Excessive use of insecticides may actually make your mosquito problem worse by reducing numbers of these mozzie predators.
“Essential oils (such as citronella) can often help stop some mosquito bites — but don’t burn these in the bedroom while you sleep, you don’t want to be breathing in all that smoke.”
There are some natural remedies which offer a little relief from mozzie attack. “While some plants (such as tea trees) may contain essential oils that are insect repellents when isolated and concentrated, the plant itself won’t help stop mosquito bites,” Cameron says. But too many plants can exacerbate the bug pr problem. “A backyard overgrown with veg vegetation provides a shaded, pr protected, and cool e environment for m mosquitoes so you’ll find more buzzing about,” he s says. “Keeping thick v vegetation to a minimum wi will help reduce mosquitoes. Also Also, avoid plants that trap water ( (such as bromeliads) that provide oppo opportunities for breeding,”
Clear the air
“Fly screens offer great protection from mosquitoes flying indoors, but even with that physical barrier, mosquitoes usually find a way inside, or at least into alfresco areas,” Cameron says.
One top tip he suggests is to keep the air moving in the rooms where you don’t want mosquitoes.
“Mosquitoes generally won’t like the cool conditions created by airconditioning or air movement created by oscillating fans,” he says. “Alternatively, plug in odourless and smokeless devices. These small units release insecticides that knock out mosquitoes without burning a coil.”
Keep it clean
Maintaining a clean and tidy house and garden is going to reduce opportunities for pest insects such as cockroaches, but with less mess in the yard there will potentially be less objects around catching water and providing breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
“The best way to reduce mosquitoes around the home is to ensure they’re not breeding nearby in the first place,” Cameron says.
The family pet can also be a huge drawcard for all manner of bug life, so Dr Webb’s advice is to clean up straight after mealtime and their toilet breaks.
“Any food scraps and animal waste will provide a home for pest insects such as flies and cockroaches,” Cameron says. “Not only can it be annoying to have a lot of these insects buzzing or scuttling about, there is also a risk they may transfer bacteria from garbage to your food, making you sick.
“Pet bowls and unused toys can also be a source of mosquitoes when they trap stagnant water, so make sure they’re collected and stored inside,” he adds.
And while the jury is still out on why some people get bitten more often than others, there is an alarming link for anyone who loves a barbecue: drinking beer and eating certain cheeses could make you a more popular mozzie target.