Mosquitoes have a pair of scaled wings, a slender body and long legs. They can fly continuously for up to four hours, traveling up to 10 km a night. Normally they rest during the heat of the day in a cool place and wait for the cooler evenings to feed. They can get through the smallest hole and have been known to travel along pipes for air conditioning to get into homes.
This is the worse time of year for mosquitoes and more than 700 million people will die in America, Africa and Asia. Here in Europe, mosquitoes are more of a nuisance, rather than a killer.
Both male and female mosquitoes are nectar feeders, but it is the female that is capable of drinking blood. When a mosquito bites a human, she injects saliva and anti-coagulants. The initial bite does not create a reaction, but subsequent bites cause the body’s immune system to develop antibodies, which in turn causes the bite to become inflamed and itchy within 24 hours. Some adults can become desensitized to mosquitoes and have little or no reaction to bites, while others can become hyper-sensitive with bites blistering or becoming very inflamed.
The female mosquito hunts their blood host by detecting carbon dioxide from a distance. They carry disease-carrying viruses and parasites from one body to another and they suck blood from people and other animals as part of their eating and breeding habits. This cycle can be interrupted by killing the mosquitoes, isolating infected people from all mosquitoes while they are infectious, or vaccinating susceptible people. There are some basic ways of reducing the mosquito population:
- Remove mosquito breeding habitats such as standing water in plant pots etc.
- Introduce natural predators of mosquitoes such as dragonflies and bats.
- Use pesticides to reduce the mosquito lava and adult mosquitoes.
Use bug zappers. There are a number of different types on the market including small electrical mats, mosquito repellent vapour and mosquito coils. There are also numerous candles and oils containing citronella which can repel mosquitoes. Some mosquito traps emit carbon dioxide, together with sugary scents that give out warmth and water vapour, so attracting the female mosquito. Once trapped, the mosquito is sucked into a net or holder by an electric fan and they eventually die.
Grow plants that are said to deter the mosquitoes, such as sagewort, lemon balm, lemon grass, lemon thyme and the mosquito plant pelargonium. The leaves from these plants can be crushed and applied to the skin to deter the mosquitoes.
Avon have a product called Skin so Soft and this will deter mosquitoes if applied to the skin either directly from the spray bottle, or slightly diluted.
One of the main preventative measures to avoid problems from the mosquito is of course mosquito nets. These can be put over the bed, which is recommended if there is no netting at the windows. Window netting may be the preferred choice. There are numerous companies specializing in fitting special units to windows and doors.
To treat mosquito bites, apply hot water immediately. This should eliminate itching if carried out for several minutes. There are of course commercial products containing antihistamine which can be taken orally or creams that can be applied to the skin. For more extreme cases, hydrocortisone can be applied. Calamine lotion, baking soda or salt rubbed into the skin can also help in minor cases. Scratching, cooling and heat are effective, but usually only bring temporary relief and may well irritate and inflame the area, increasing the risk of infection and scarring.