How to Avoid One Notorious Summer Pest

By Luke Forsberg, Student Intern; photos courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
A female Aedes aegypti mosquito

A female Aedes aegypti mosquito in the process of acquiring a blood meal from a human host.

Summertime is synonymous with t-shirts, shorts, and spending time outdoors. However, summer also marks the return of one of nature’s most annoying and dangerous pests: the mosquito.

Mosquitos can cause more than irritating rashes, infections, and itchy bites. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mosquitos transmit diseases including Yellow Fever, Malaria, Dengue, West Nile Virus, and the Zika virus.

There are a variety of ways you can help protect yourself from mosquitos. Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants helps prevent bites–though mosquitos can still bite through thin fabrics.

To safely use insect repellent, the EPA advises applying it to exposed skin not covered by clothes, avoiding applying repellent near the mouth and eyes, following the label’s instructions, never using it on open cuts, and never spraying it indoors. If you are using sunscreen, apply the sunscreen first and then the insect repellent. Only choose insect repellent with active ingredients approved by the EPA, including DEET, Picardin (KBR 3023), oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, and IR3535. The effectiveness of insect repellents not registered with the EPA is not known.

A few precautionary steps can also help control mosquitos in your backyard. Once a week, check for standing water and remove it so mosquitos cannot lay their eggs. Do this by scrubbing, turning over, or covering up items that could contain loose water like pots, buckets, and old tires. If you have a septic tank, cracks and gaps should be repaired, and open vents should be covered with wire mesh with holes smaller than adult mosquitos.

Before traveling, do your research when choosing where to stay. Try and select lodging with air conditioning and windows with screens. If you are staying outside, or in an area with no screens, permethrin-treated bed nets can provide protection against mosquitos. Permethrin is an insecticide used to kill mosquitos and other various insects. Make sure to select a World Health Organization Pesticide Evaluation Scheme (WHOPES)-approved bed net. Also, be aware that exposing bed nets to sunlight breaks down insecticides, more quickly diminishing their effectiveness.

For more information on mosquito safety, go to the EPA website.

Only choose insect repellent with active ingredients approved by the EPA.