Protect yourself from invading mosquitoes

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Mosquitoes are out and about ruining people’s picnics, hikes and gardening with their constant swarming and need to obtain blood from innocent Illinois residents.

Adult mosquitoes eat nectar, pollen and honeydew (insect droppings full of sugar). However, the adult female needs the protein from your blood to produce her eggs. It is unclear why she chooses to bite me and not my husband, as some scientists believe it has something to do with the bacteria that live on our skin, your blood type, and the makeup of the lactic acid you produce when you sweat. She leaves behind saliva that causes your body to produce histamine. This histamine causes that infamous swelling and itching.

If you are tired of being bitten, there are some steps you can take to prevent the mosquito populations in your yard.

Managing mosquitoes in your yard

• The number one task a homeowner should take to reduce the number of mosquitoes is to address the areas in your yard that could be breeding habitats. As little as a half-inch of standing water can be the ideal breeding habitat. It is recommended that anything that can hold water should be cleaned and emptied every week.

• Clean the gutters. Some mosquitoes breed in stagnant, even putrid, water, so cleaning gutters is one of the best things a homeowner can do. This tends to be one of the most overlooked tasks homeowners can do to prevent their yards becoming summer breeding grounds for summer.

• For all of you who bought backyard pools for your little ones this summer, ensure that they are emptied and cleaned weekly.

• Forget bug zappers. Mosquitoes are not attracted to light. However, many beneficial insects such as moths, lacewings and non-biting midges are and may be killed.

• Citronella candles can be somewhat effective if used in large numbers on calm days. Citronella-scented geranium plants (or other supposed mosquito-repelling plants) are not effective because the essential oils of the leaves are not released into the air.

Personal protection

• Wear light-colored clothes, long-sleeved shirts and long pants when possible. Mosquitoes are attracted to dark objects.

• Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are looking for a meal. While a few species of mosquitoes are active during the day, a majority are most active around twilight or just after it becomes dark.

• Use personal insect repellents. The Illinois Department of Public Health recommends DEET as the most effective chemical to use to combat mosquitoes. Products containing 40% DEET can be effective up to four to six hours.

The Center for Disease Control also recommends products containing Picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), Para-menthane-diol (PMD), and 2-undecanone. Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD) on children under 3-years-old.

• Retired University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator Sandy Mason reported that “natural repellents containing essential oils like citronella are not as long-lasting as DEET.” They may only be effective for 20 to 30 minutes and have shown to be poor performers in preventing mosquito bites. However, according to recent consumer reports, oil of lemon eucalyptus at 30% showed higher effectiveness and lasted more than seven hours, making it more effective than other natural products.

• Make sure window screens are in good shape to prevent mosquitoes from invading the home.

• Sit in front of an oscillating fan in addition to personal protection can help. Mosquitoes cannot fight the wind current.

Taking some of these steps to prevent mosquitoes from setting up shop in your yard can help you enjoy your gardening tasks, backyard barbecues, and summer outings without the constant barrage of itchy bites.