The weather is warm, the sun is shining – it’s time for backyard barbeques, pool parties and evenings spent outside on the patio. The only things that can derail these lovely plans are those pesky mosquitoes. And with the amount of rain we had this spring, there is a good bet we are in for a whopper of a mosquito season.
“The female mosquitoes lay their eggs into standing water,” said Zenas Dickinson, M.D., who works out of the in Grosse Pointe Farms (the former Cottage Hospital). “If you provide the proper environment for this, you just may have a problem. Anything you can do to get rid of standing water, you should do it.”
This means backyards that flood and take days to evaporate or absorb because of excessive shading. It also includes bird baths, gutter that don’t drain properly – any place where water sits for days without being disturbed.
Other than the highly annoying existence of multiple mosquito bites – the itchy, red, raised welts – is the very real concern of disease from mosquito bites. According to Dr. Dickinson, while West Nile virus has not been a concern in recent years, it is trending toward being a concern once again.
“According to statistics, Michigan had 644 cases of West Nile in 2002, with 51 deaths,” he said. “Those numbers have been trending downward each year. In 2009 there was one case in Michigan. But last year, we had 29 cases, and three deaths.”
While that is still a very low number, Dr. Dickinson said they could be a reflection of the mosquito population, having gone through some dryer summers. This year could very well support this belief if the cases of West Nile rise. In addition to West Nile, mosquitoes can carry other diseases, though what is most troublesome about the little buggers is the uncomfortable itching.
“People don’t usually have an allergic reaction to mosquitoes,” he said. “But they can become more of a problem as you get older because we have a quicker response to what the mosquito injects into us to keep the blood thin.”
That said, Dr. Dickinson warned against putting your young child in a situation where he or she may be heavily bitten by mosquitoes. You, too, will want to guard against unnecessary mosquito bites. Here are some of Dr. Dickinson’s tips to avoid this:
- Use Deep Woods Off with Deet. According to Dr. Dickinson, there have been very few cases of any document human problems with deet, and this chemical is highly effective in driving away mosquitoes. Off with a 35 percent concentration of deet can protect you for up to eight hours. What is key is applying it properly. DO NOT spray it directly onto your – or your child’s – skin. Instead, spray it onto your hand, then rub it onto the skin. According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, repellents with deet are safe for anyone over the age of 2 months old. Other methods of defending against mosquitoes, although likely not as effective include eucalyptus oil or Avon’s Skin So Soft.
- Wear loose-fitting clothes. This will make it harder for the mosquito’s stinger to reach your skin. If you are hiking in the woods, wear longer pants, a long-sleeve shirt and a hat in addition to an insect repellent.
- Avoid being outside at dawn and dusk. This is when mosquitoes are most active.
- Get rid of standing water around your home. This is, literally, a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
- Make sure the screens in your house do not have holes in them, or have not pulled loose in any area.
Of course, you can also opt for some other ways to defend. The blue martin bird and dragonflies eat plenty of mosquitoes, so offering accommodations for these on your property might help. Bats also eat up to 3,000 mosquitoes a night. But Dr. Dickinson does not advise bat-house construction as an answer.
“If you want to have bats, then go ahead,” he joked. “But I don’t think you’d want a bat problem.”
Citronella candles, although they smell nice, are really more for aesthetics, according to Mike Tavery, owner of Allemon’s Landscaping. Instead, opt for the citronella plant. This lemon-lime smelling plant will drive away mosquitoes within about a four-foot radius. That’s just enough to help you enjoy your evening sitting at your patio table.
Good luck with the mosquito season, and if you find yourself complaining, just remember our long winter; that should snap you out of it!