Don’t buy it!
Mosquitoes go through four distinct life stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The egg is laid in calm water and hatches into a larva that feeds on organisms in the water. The larva molts several times as it grows, before entering the pupa phase. The adult then emerges from the water to feed and reproduce. The whole process can occur within a week. When the adult emerges, the problems begin for people and pets. Because these biting insects are so annoying, all kinds of stories are told about them. Sometimes observations lead to wrong conclusions. Other times ignorance leads to wild guesses. Read on, and discover why these 12 mosquito myths are just plain wrong.
Myth: All mosquitoes bite.
Adult mosquitoes have one mission: reproduction. It's this primal instinct that drives female mosquitoes to feast on blood. While both male and female mosquitoes eat flower nectar and plant juices, female mosquitoes need additional nutrients in order to lay eggs; these nutrients are found in human and animal blood. Female mosquitoes have mouthparts that allow them to pierce skin, which their saliva lubricates, causing an initially painless bite. It is only when the saliva enters the skin that an itchy, inflamed reaction develops.
Myth: They only bite in the evening.
It’s true that mosquitoes are more active during evening hours in the summer, but that’s not the only time they bite. Mosquitoes are active during times of lower light and mild temperatures. You won’t see them as much on hot, sunny summer days. On the other hand, they will be out in full force on overcast days from spring through fall, or all day long in shady areas. As long as the conditions are favorable, mosquitoes are active.
Myth: A few bites are no big deal.
Mosquito bites are irritating, but they can lead to serious illness, too. Through the first half of the 20th century, summer malaria outbreaks were an annual threat in the United States. Today, thanks to window screens, air conditioning, and the use of insecticides, the risk of mosquito-borne illness has been greatly reduced. Even so, disease is a potential outcome of any mosquito bite. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists numerous mosquito-borne illnesses that can be contracted in the U.S., including West Nile, Dengue fever, and yellow fever. If you've been bitten by mosquitoes in a high-risk locale, monitor yourself for symptoms like fever, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, rash, and vomiting. Seek medical treatment if these occur.
Myth: Sweet-blooded people get more bites.
A long-held myth is that the sweetness of a person’s blood determines how attractive they are to mosquitoes. It's not the sweetness of your blood that affects your likelihood of being bitten, but your blood type. The United States National Institutes of Health conducted a study to observe landing preferences of mosquitoes and determined that mosquitoes were most attracted to people with type O blood, with type B being their second favorite.
Myth: Bug zappers create a mosquito-free zone in your yard.
Plenty of bugs, including mosquitoes, are attracted to the lights of bug zappers. But do bug zappers actually create a safe zone where you won’t get bitten? No. Mosquitoes are attracted to heat and carbon dioxide, not light. A New York Times article explains how, although bug zappers kill incredible numbers of bugs, they kill the wrong ones. Given the choice between the zapper and a warm body, mosquitoes prefer the warm body.
Myth: The best way to eliminate mosquitoes is to spray the yard.
There is no shortage of pest control companies that want to spray your yard. Popular as these treatments are with bug-weary homeowners, a chemical application is not the best way to eliminate mosquitoes. Both the CDC and the United States Environmental Protection Agency agree that your first step in deterring mosquitoes should be to eliminate their breeding areas. Put away tools and toys when not in use to prevent surfaces in which standing water can collect. Fill in or drain low-lying parts of the yard where water pools. Keep rain gutters clean and make sure downspouts drain away. Practice proper maintenance on swimming pools and ornamental water features.
Myth: Burning citronella candles will protect you from bites.
Citronella candles are great for ambiance, but not good at eliminating mosquitoes. The lemony scent is supposed to mask the scents that attract mosquitoes to people. But, as noted earlier, mosquitoes are attracted to heat and carbon dioxide. Candles create both heat and carbon dioxide, counteracting any positive effect that the essential oil may offer. In a recent study of various mosquito repellents reported in the Journal of Insect Science, a citronella candle performed worse than using no protection at all.
Myth: The best way to eliminate them is to attract bats.
Bats eat huge numbers of insects each night, and there are some claims that bats can eat 1,000 mosquitoes per hour. While that feat may be physically possible, in reality it is extremely unlikely. A bat needs to consume about a third of its body weight in insects each night, and they prefer to expend as little energy as possible to do so. They will often consume larger insects like moths and beetles, as well as the occasional mosquito, but bats are not primarily consumers of mosquitoes. Bottom line, bats may help control mosquitoes, but they're not a silver bullet.
Myth: A person’s diet can repel mosquitoes.
Another common mosquito myth is that eating certain foods will keep them at bay. Though consuming strong foods like garlic may provide a trace of protection, it won’t be enough to keep them away. They can still home in on carbon dioxide emissions and body heat. In fact, alcohol, and foods that are high in potassium increase the likelihood of bug bites. So, eat what you like and use a good bug spray.
Myth: Any bug spray will work.
The effectiveness of mosquito repellent is not just a matter of opinion, it's science. The most effective active ingredients for keeping bugs at bay are DEET, and Picaridin. Next in order of repellency is IR3535, which is commonly blended into “sunscreen plus repellent” products. This type of formulation should be used with caution, as reapplying for continued sun protection could overexpose the wearer to the bug repellent. Essential oils offer significantly less protection than DEET, Picaridin, or IR3535.
Myth: The world would be better off without mosquitoes.
Nearly 750,000 people die each year of mosquito-borne diseases. Anyone who has felt the effects of malaria, Dengue fever, yellow fever, West Nile virus, or Zika may think the world would be better off without mosquitoes. But consider: There are about 3,500 mosquito species around the world, and only 200 species feed on humans. A small handful of these carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans. And they serve many supporting functions the world over: In water, their larvae eat microbes, and in some cases other mosquito larvae; many organisms—dragonflies, frogs, fish, birds, and even carnivorous plants—feed on mosquitoes and their larvae; and mosquitoes assist in pollinating plants. Without mosquitoes the world would be an unpredictably different place.
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