Here are some tips to beat the buzz of summer mosquitoes and stop those sleepless summer nights! (also some things to avoid!)
1. Stop making a home for mozzies in your backyard
Tip out, throw away or cover any water holding containers in the backyard. This includes buckets, bottles and bins. Mozzies can make even the smallest amount of water home. Don’t overwater your plants, the water sloshing about the pot plant saucer is perfect for mozzies. Empty and refill your bird bath once a week. Tip out water collecting on top of tarpaulins covering boats and trailers. Make sure your rainwater tank is properly screened.
2. Keep the mozzies outside
Check the screens on your windows and doors. Any holes or gaps where mozzies can sneak through? Fix them. You don’t have screens? That’s just plain silly. Fly screens on windows should be standard in every home. Lets the breeze through but keeps the mozzies out. There are lots of great flexible screening options for outdoor areas too so keep them in mind if you want to get more out of your outdoor spaces (with fewer bites).
3. Sleep under a net
Want to recapture that holiday romance of your trip to that malaria endemic tropical destination? It is true that sleeping under a net will keep mozzies away, nets treated with insecticide are even better. However, unless you’ve got a gap between the net and your skin, mozzies will just land and bite straight through the net!
4. Plug in a smokeless mosquito coil
Burning a mosquito coil next to the bed in an enclosed room isn’t a good idea. There are some nasty compounds produces as the coil burns and best not be breathing that in all night. You’re better off with a plug-in vaporizer (often called mozzie zappers – they heat a pad or reservoir of insecticides to kill mozzies in the room). There is no evidence that they pose a health risk to humans but if you’re in any way concerned, just plug them into a timing device, set it for the first few hours after sunset. By the time it switches off, any mozzies hiding out under the bed will be dead.
5. Move the air around
Sure you could blast the air conditioning and keep the bedroom cold enough to stop the mozzies but why not just switch on a fan. Whether it is a ceiling fan or bedside oscillating fan, a bit of air movement will both disperse the carbon dioxide you’re exhaling (and attracting mosquitoes) and also disrupt the flight of mosquitoes. They’re fragile insects and anything more than a gentle breeze will knock them about.
And here are three thing NOT to do….
1. Don’t worry about repellent
Topical insect repellents work great but they’re not something you should be putting on before you go to bed. It isn’t that they’re doing you any harm, its just that they won’t last the night. Most formulations will give you around 4-6h protection normally but it will probably rub off on the bed sheets before it starts to fail anyway. Mozzies are great at detecting a chink in our insect repellent armour so will target in on those little gaps.
2. Don’t fall for urban myths
There is nothing you can eat or drink that will stop you being bitten by mosquitoes. Nothing. Not bananas, not garlic and not taking huge amounts of Vitamin B. If there was something out there we could eat or drink to repel mosquitoes, our pharmacies and supermarkets would have shelves stocked with “mozzie repelling pills” all summer.
3. Don’t plant mosquito repellent plants
There are a few plant species out there that are sold as “mosquito repelling” or “mozzie blocking” but they don’t work. Filling your herb garden or planting out your backyard won’t stop the mozzies. It is true that the essential oils and other extracts from some of these plants have some mosquito repellent attributes, the whole plants don’t. Keep in mind that for many of these plants, particularly tea-trees, they define some of the most productive mosquito habitats along the east coast of Australia. The mozzies don’t seem to mind!
I hope you can stay bite free this summer and get a good nights sleep. What else have you tried to beat the bite of mozzies this summer? Join the conversation on Twitter.
Want to learn more about the amazing world of Australian mosquitoes? Check out “A Field Guide to Mosquitoes of Australia” out now through CSIRO Publishing. Over 200 pages containing a pictorial guide to almost 100 different mosquitoes along with tips on beating their bite and protecting your family from the health risks of mosquitoes. You can order online or through your favourite local bookstore or online retailer.
Read more at The Conversation: Are mosquito coils good or bad for our health?
Read more at The Conversation: What can I eat to stop mosquitoes biting me?
Read more at The Conversation: The best (and worst) ways to beat mosquito bites