Upcoming Mosquito Management Workshop Teaches Participants to ‘Avoid the Bite’

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Let it be known that in my family I hold the record for number of mosquito bites at one time. While on a vacation in the coastal swamps of Georgia (yes I said 'vacation'), I racked up over 100 mosquito bites.

So what makes a person more attractive to mosquitoes than others? Here are a few things that mosquitoes find very tempting:

  • Carbon dioxide- Yes every time you exhale you draw those pesky little blood suckers closer.
  • Lactic acid- We produce lactic acid on our skin.
  • High skin temperature
  • Various colognes and perfumes
  • Dark colored clothing – Hence my ever-increasing stock in white T-shirts.
  • Warm days with low winds. Mosquitoes are pretty lousy fliers, so cool days with high winds (over ten mph) reduce their activity. Placing a fan facing an outdoor seating area will keep them at bay.
  • Studies have also indicated that some people are just more desirable than others. Due to the complexity of factors that can play into this, researchers are unsure why exactly this is.

Avoidance is only part of the strategy. Controlling mosquito populations is another aspect of minimizing bites to humans.

Breeding Sites

Only female mosquitoes bite. This is because they need a blood meal (protein) for reproduction. Once she has fed the female will search out a favorable site to lay her eggs. And anything that holds stagnant water is her target. Preventing her offspring from developing into adult mosquitoes is the most efficient control. Some strategies to eliminate breeding sites are:

  • Remove any object on your property that may hold water. i.e. tin cans, toy, flower pot saucers, stagnant pools and the notorious old tire in the backyard.
  • Change water in birdbaths weekly
  • Stock garden ponds with top-feeding minnows
  • Make sure covers are tight and free of holes over grills, cisterns, rain barrels, or anywhere water is stored
  • Clean your gutters. Gutters are often the unseen area for development of mosquitoes. I find myself cleaning out our gutters in the fall and spring.
  • If you can't remove the standing water, then treat it with Bti (Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis). Bti only targets mosquito and a few species of fly larvae.
Are you concerned about mosquitoes, Zika, and West Nile Virus? University of Illinois Extension will be offering a series of free classes regarding mosquitoes and human health in Henderson, Knox, McDonough, and Warren Counties. Researchers at Western Illinois University will speak on the biology of mosquitoes and current tracking of Zika and West Nile Virus. Health department officials will be on-hand to answer participant questions and I will speak on how to keep those pesky blood-suckers at bay. Register online at https://web.extension.illinois.edu/hkmw/ or contact Amanda Christenson at 309-342-5108 or achriste@illinois.edu.