Earlier this year, when winter seemed to hang on forever, Hoosiers begged for the hot, sunny days of summer. We’ve got the heat, we’ve got the sun, and unfortunately, we’ve got mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes are a common insect with over 3,000 species found throughout the world. Although all Hoosiers have been surprised by the bite of a mosquito, many of us our surprised to learn these tiny, winged vampires actually prefer the sugary sweet nectar of flowering plants. Males are strictly nectar feeders while females do all the biting. Not for their own survival, but to acquire supplemental proteins and irons to help develop fertile eggs. While we can appreciate her desire to breed, the sting of her bite and the itchiness and possible welts are quick reminders of why we dislike these bothersome bugs and their tendency to ruin early morning hikes and evening meals alfresco. However, not just anyone's blood will do.
You may know some people that never seemed to be bothered my the mosquito's bite. It is because mosquitoes do have blood-sucking preferences, with only one in ten people being highly attractive to mosquitoes. Although researchers have yet to pinpoint what mosquitoes consider an ideal hunk of human flesh, they do know that genetics account for 85% of our susceptibility to mosquito bites. Genetics determines our body chemistry and certain elements, such as cholesterol, when found in excess on the skin's surface, make mosquitoes swarm closer. They can also smell their dinner from an impressively long distance away, attracted by carbon dioxide. Larger people tend to give off more carbon dioxide, which is why mosquitoes typically prefer munching on adults to small children.
Mosquitoes are not only an annoyance, but in some areas, can be quite deadly. More deaths are associated with mosquitoes than any other animal on the planet as they are carriers of a number of serious diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever and viral encephalitis. Fortunately Indiana residents do not have to worry about these particular diseases, cases of West Nile virus have been linked with these small, slender, long-legged flies.
The Environmental Protection Agency has a few tips on how to control mosquito populations around your home. Because females need standing water to lay their eggs, the EPA's first suggestion is to remove standing water in "rain gutters, old tires, buckets, plastic covers, toys, or any other container where mosquitoes can breed." Replacing water weekly from fountains, bird baths and the like will also keep mosquitoes away.
To prevent exposure from mosquitoes, wear long-sleeves and long pants where ever there could be a chance of high populations such as hiking trails around lakes and ponds. Mosquito repellants are also strongly encouraged to prevent bites. For a list of EPA-approved insect repellants and which one is best for you, visit their website.June 22, 2011