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Mosquitoes 101

Anyone else plan their gardening around when mosquitoes are out and about?

I have been avoiding the garden – except for early mornings – just to avoid mosquitoes this season. So, I finally decided to research these little nuisances to find out more about them and what I can do to stay protected.

Turns out that being pregnant may have to do with them bothering me this summer more than ever. Due to being pregnant, I get hotter much faster and am breathing more – two things that attract mosquitoes.

Whether you are in the same situation or are just looking for ways to get the mosquitoes in your yard under control – this is the post for you!

We’ll start by learning a bit about them, so we can understand how to manage them.

mosquito

Photo by Boris Smokrovic on Unsplash

Background on mosquitoes

According to Penn State’s Entomology Department, there are 200 species of mosquitoes in the United States and 3,000 species worldwide.

Where do mosquitoes lay eggs?

  • on water
  • on plants in the water
  • in tree holes
  • moist soil
  • near locations with a large source of water

Life cycle of mosquitoes

In general, heavy rainfall and high temperatures are ideal for mosquito development.

Eggs

Once temperatures are consistently above 50°F and the eggs are exposed to water, they begin to hatch. While many people think that water is needed for them to lay eggs, it is actually needed in order for the eggs to hatch. Some eggs require flooding after a dry period in order to hatch, while others hatch in standing water within 24 – 48 hours as long as they don’t dry out.

Larvae

Mosquito larvae live in water and are often referred to as wrigglers because of their movements. (This name seems very fitting – the way in which the larvae move in water reminds me of miniature tadpoles.) The larvae develop after molting four times, becoming pupae.

Pupae

During the pupae stage, the mosquitoes are still in the water, but they are no longer feeding.

Adult

Once they are able to fly, most species stay within a mile or so of where they hatched, though some fly up to five or more miles.

Male and female adult mosquitoes both feed on plant sugar and sugars from other insects. In addition to this, females feed on blood from animals which they use for protein for developing eggs.

The feeding times of females vary among species, though many feed at dawn, dusk and after dark. Those that feed during the day typically prefer shaded areas or cloudy weather.

The lifespan of a mosquito depends on the temperature, humidity and time of year.

When are mosquitoes active?

Mosquitoes become active once temperatures reach above 50°F, and they are most active when temperatures are 80°F or warmer.

When during the day they are active depends on the species. Some are most active at dawn and dusk while others are active all day in the shade.

According to Mosquito Magnet, the species most common in the US are most active at dusk. Here is a map they put together showing mosquito seasons for different states.

What attracts mosquitoes?

There are probably as many old wives’ tales about why one person gets more mosquito bites than another as there are ways to tell the gender of a baby before it’s born.

So, what does the research say?

How can I prevent mosquito bites?

I’ll start by breaking the bad news first – nothing works 100 percent of the time. Though, I’m guessing you had a hunch about this considering it would be widespread knowledge if we had a way to prevent mosquito-borne diseases.

So, how can we lessen the chance of getting mosquito bites?

The CDC recommends using EPA-registered insect repellents because they have been studied, reviewed and approved for safety.

Read about the repellents here and then decide the one that is right for you and your family by accessing the entire list of products based on ingredient. The chart includes the number of hours it provides protection, so you can decide based on the length of your activity as well.

Since repellents are formulated for use on bare skin and I personally research anything I’m going to put on my skin, I headed to the Environmental Working Group website to find out what they had to say as well. They have trustworthy information and advice about which repellents to use whether you are pregnant, want to protect your children or are searching for adult use (while traveling, while camping, for a limited time, etc.). I highly recommend their site to research any products you use on your skin.

What about other mosquito repellent claims?

There are endless claims online about other ways to prevent mosquito bites, including plants, bat houses, purple martin houses, essential oils and more. Many of these are anecdotal and while some may work extremely well for you and your family, I couldn’t find actual research studies with enough evidence to support their effectiveness.

If you’re concerned about using any of the EPA-registered insect repellents, want additional protection or just want a more natural option, here are a few recommendations:

Wear the right gear

  • wear protective, light colored clothing – long pants tucked into socks, long sleeve shirt tucked into pants, hat (The American Mosquito Control Association mentioned that dark clothing attracted certain species of mosquitoes more than light clothing in a study.)

Keep the air moving

  • To help lessen the chance of mosquito bites while you are outside, keep the air moving by using fans (overhead, box, oscillating). Mosquitoes don’t like the wind due to their flying nature.

Adjust based on your needs

  • experiment with natural options and record the evidence, so you can adjust for your family in the future
    • build a bat house and take notes on how it affects the number of mosquitoes you notice in your yard (while mosquitoes are part of a bat’s diet, studies have shown that it’s not significant enough to use as a preventative for disease control of a population)
    • plant mosquito repelling plants – these aren’t going to eliminate the mosquito population in your yard, but personally I have experienced success by rubbing leaves of several of these plants on myself when I’m outside for a very limited amount of time (walking out to the garden for a quick harvest before dinner) — always use caution when putting something on your skin, especially for the first time
    • create your own insect repellent spray – Here is a recipe to make on your own that is safe for kids. My husband and I have been using this essential oil in our spray since we haven’t needed a kid-friendly version yet. It works well, but it needs to be reapplied when I’m outside for a long time. Be sure to use caution and only apply in recommended doses.

How can I lower the mosquito population in my backyard?

Reduce locations for the mosquitoes to breed.

Avoid having standing water near your property and be sure to empty any standing water after a rain. Mosquito eggs need water to hatch, and the larvae feed on bacteria in the standing water.

Areas with standing water to watch out for:

  • Bird baths
  • Trays under pots, planters or other containers
  • Gutters and downspouts with leaves
  • Baby pools (or other pools with stagnant water)
  • Toys
  • Buckets
  • Wheelbarrows
  • Rain barrels without screens
  • Drains, ditches or other areas that collect water
  • Check covers (grill cover, pool cover, umbrellas – anything that could allow water to pool)
  • Leaky AC units or faucets
  • Pet dishes

If you have a bird bath or other source of water for animals, be sure to change the water frequently – ideally, every other day and at minimum once a week. If you have a fountain or pool with moving water, you are do not need to change the water.

Reduce the areas for adult mosquitoes to find shelter.

Keep your yard mowed and your shrubs, trees and bushes pruned. Adult mosquitos find shelter in vegetation, so eliminating as much as possible close to your house will cut down on areas for them to hide.

Other Mosquito Questions

I’m certainly no mosquito expert, however, you can get in touch with one should you have any questions, thanks to the American Mosquito Control Association.

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