A tiny benefit to the worst drought in south Texas since 1917 is that few mosquitos attended backyard BBQ’s this summer. Our little city’s mosquito spray truck usually stays busy from April til October, spray pluming out of the back of an old City of Portland 1/2 ton truck at dusk and dawn.
I’d be willing to bet that the mosquito man has to jump start that old truck when he makes his rounds and maybe take a second job. The truck runs for about a week or so after the infrequent showers that have dampened our grass over the past 3 months, but he hasn’t needed to do daily service for most of the summer and fall.
We got one of those showers last week and the mosquito population came alive. They were especially noticeable near Bayside where the mosquitos stalked us as Bob stalked the big buck. Friday night when I rode with Bob to help (watch) him put corn in the feeders and check the timer batteries, we got a preview of what The Hungry Mosquito Show would look like.
Mosquitos are amazingly simple little insects. Their name means “little fly” and is Spanish in origin, but mosquitos themselves aren’t limited to the New World or to recent times. Aristotle identified them in his Historia Animalium in 300 B.C. There are more than 2,700 species of mosquitos; about 173 identified species live in the U.S. Mosquitos buzzed back as the Triassic Period (4 million years ago).
According to mosquito.org, mosquitos go through their life cycle in 4 to 14 days, depending on the species. Here are some other interesting facts to consider when you are walking through tall grass on the way to a deer blind.
- Mosquitos find hosts by sight (they observe movement); by detecting infra-red radiation emitted by warm bodies; and by chemical signals (mosquitos are attracted to carbon dioxide and lactic acid, among other chemicals) at distances of 80 to 115 feet.
- Mosquitos fly an estimated 1 to 1.5 miles per hour.
- Salt marsh mosquitos can migrate up to 40 miles for a meal.
- Bigger people are often more attractive to mosquitos because they are larger targets and they produce more mosquito attractants, namely CO2 and lactic acid.
- Active or fidgety people also produce more CO2 and lactic acid.
- Women are usually more attractive to mosquitos than men because of the difference in hormones produced by the sexes.
- Blondes tend to be more attractive to mosquitos than brunettes.
- Smelly feet are attractive to mosquitos.
- Dark clothing attracts mosquitos.
- Movement increased mosquito biting up to 50% in some research tests.
- A full moon increased mosquito activity 500% in one study
- Mosquitos is the correct Spanish pluralization of mosquito; mosquitoes is the correct English pluralization. (I can’t get use to the TOES in mosquito so we are going Spanish.)
- Bob and I used Cutter’s outdoor spray which contains DEET, an old and recognized mosquito repellent. Repellents only confuse a mosquitos sense of smell so they can’t find you, but they can find the dime sized area on your neck that doesn’t have repellent.
American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t recommend using DEET on children under 2 months; over 2 months, AAP says a 30% concentration can safely be used. That gives protection for a couple of hours. A concentration of at least 20% provides protection from ticks.
EPA has registered several other mosquito repellents. The same companies that use DEET also use a chemical called picardin which is less damaging to fabrics and has less odor than DEET based sprays. Oil of lemon-eucalyptus is another effective repellents but it shouldn’t be used on children younger than 3 and may cause skin irritation in high concentrations which is what you need to repel ticks, too.
Metofluthrin is another chemical used in repellents and is currently sold as OFF! Clip-On. Metofluthrin both repels and kills flying insects. Catnip has been noted for years as possessing repellency against mosquitoes. DuPont has engineered a catnip formulation that exhibits the traits of a commercially effective repellent and has registered the product with the EPA, but it isn’t available commercially.
The Iroquois Indians have a legend of the mosquito. The story goes that originally there were just two mosquitoes, but they were giant creatures as tall as a pine tree and they attacked and ate people. A bunch of braves surrounded them one day and finally killed them, but as the blood of the beasts touched the ground, a swarm composed of millions of tiny mosquitoes sprung up from it. The little ones bite us today because they crave revenge for their ancestor’s defeat.
As one of the most likely mosquito targets-an overweight blonde woman-I will be careful to avoid my little black dress if I am walking (not running) under the full moon. Otherwise, I will be giving those little suckers a chance to exact some vengeance for their ancestor’s demise.