By now, let's assume you don't want to get sick from mosquitoes. You don't
want to give blood to the phylum arthropoda. And you don't even want to
hear their signature whining in your ear. What to do?
The Why Files asked Don Barnard for advice on staying
unbitten. Barnard ought to know about skeeters: he's the research leader
at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Mosquito and Fly Research Unit
in Gainesville, Fla.
Here's his advice, combined with some other wisdom
from veteran mosquito targets:
Time of day
Mosquitoes tend to be out at dawn and dusk, and you
may be able to avoid getting bitten by staying inside when they're outside.
Why dawn and dusk? Because the little lovelies could suffer a disastrous
drying out during mid-day, and because animals -- their potential prey
-- tend to be active at dawn and dusk.
The heavy-duty approach
It's surprisingly comfortable, and in mode with the
latest fashion imperative, the camo look. "They can whine, but they can't
bite," says The Why Files writer Dave Tenenbaum, demonstrating a classic
"open-handed northwoods swat."
you want to see Dave hit himself in a QuickTime movie (2.3MB) Click here.
Video by Enrique Rueda.
Time of year
Try to go out before or after the peak mosquito season.
There's nothing like a stiff breeze to keep mosquitoes
down. Even just moving to a windy bluff can restore your sanity on a mosquito-mangled
DEET is the standard of the industry, but you don't
need to swim in the stuff for it to be effective. "We generally recommend
30 percent DEET or less," says Barnard, "applied according to label directions."
And if you can't figure out what the label means, take heart. The Environmental
Protection Agency is working on plans for better labels.
Don't drink DEET, don't slather on more than you
need, and be especially careful with young children.
Repellents, the sequel
If you don't like the idea of smearing so much DEET
on your skin, there's a time-released, micro-encapsulated version that
supposedly prevents it from entering your skin.
Repellents (the fashion statement)
For travel to heavily infested areas, one option is
to soak your clothing in permethrin, an insecticide made for the purpose.
One treatment will last for several washings. "It's a good combination,"
says Barnard. "We can get hours of complete protection from that."
They kill a lot of insects, if you can stand the incessant
"Zink" of electro-fried arthropods. But critics say zappers fry more beneficial
insects than harmful ones (remember: humans aren't the only species that
like mosquitoes dead: certain insects eat them).
The ecological approach
Put up a bat-house (the bat-lovers at Bat Conservation
International will sell you one,
or a house for purple martins.
These winged wonders supposedly gobble hundreds of
mosquitoes each hour, and they're not only non-toxic, but they're fun
to watch (more power to mosquito-eaters.)
Need more on skeeters? Can't get enough?