Mosquitoes, the insects that give us a hard time every summer, are becoming increasingly dangerous. While their bites used to cause only discomfort for a few days, experts warn that with the multiplication of disease-carrying mosquitoes, these bites could potentially make us seriously ill. Europe is facing a trend of global warming, where heatwaves and floods are becoming more frequent and severe, and summers are becoming longer and hotter. This creates more favorable conditions for invasive mosquito species that carry dangerous diseases. Here are a few ways to keep them away:
- Mosquitoes and the diseases they transmit
- Mosquito traps
- Eliminate mosquito larvae
- Keeping mosquitoes out of your home
- Proper use of mosquito repellents
- Mosquitoes and the Diseases They Transmit
There are over 2,700 species of mosquitoes worldwide, and they are known to be disease vectors. These include several species of Aedes mosquitoes, including Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, which can transmit viruses such as Zika, chikungunya, and dengue. These mosquitoes often bite during the daytime, especially early morning and late evening, and typically target individuals around the ankles, according to Buckner.
What are the diseases spread by mosquitoes?
- West Nile Virus: It is transmitted through the bites of mosquitoes from the Culex species. It can cause asymptomatic infections or mild symptoms such as fever and headache, but it can also lead to severe complications, including meningitis and encephalitis.
- Zika Virus: It has been associated with congenital abnormalities, including microcephaly. It is spread by mosquitoes from the Aedes species.
- Dengue Virus: It is spread by mosquitoes from the Aedes species and can cause dengue fever, a disease that can have mild or severe symptoms, including high fever, muscle pain, and rashes. Severe forms of the disease can be fatal.
- Chikungunya Virus: It is transmitted by mosquitoes from the Aedes species and can cause chikungunya fever, with symptoms such as high fever, joint pain, and rashes. Typically, the disease is self-limiting, but joint pain may persist in the long term.
In 2022, in the EU/EEA, there were reported 1,133 human cases and 92 deaths due to West Nile virus infection, of which 1,112 cases were locally acquired in 11 countries, the highest number of cases recorded since the peak year of the 2018 epidemic. Locally acquired cases were reported in Italy (723), Greece (286), Romania (47), Germany (16), Hungary (14), Croatia (8), Austria (6), France (6), Spain (4), Slovakia (1), and Bulgaria (1).
In 2022, there were 71 locally acquired cases of dengue in continental Europe (EU/EEA), which represents the total number of cases reported between 2010 and 2021. Locally acquired dengue cases were reported in France (65 cases) and Spain (6 cases).
- Mosquito traps
Mosquito traps aim to attract adult mosquitoes that are already in flight and searching for food. However, since mosquitoes can enter a yard from any direction, it is unlikely that a trap will capture all of these mosquitoes.
The best traps are those that specifically target mosquitoes, rather than insects or flying insects in general. Some traps create environments where mosquitoes might enter to try to lay their eggs. Depending on the trap, mosquitoes are caught before they can lay eggs or they deposit eggs in a solution that can kill the eggs or larvae before they become adults. Others attract insects seeking a meal using an attractant such as carbon dioxide, which simulates breathing. Once in these traps, mosquitoes cannot escape and die.
Popular traps like the Mosquito Magnet can also capture many mosquitoes, including household mosquitoes, by releasing carbon dioxide to attract them. Sometimes, these traps can kill hundreds of mosquitoes in a single night. However, if there is an unused swimming pool or a pond nearby, it can release millions of new mosquitoes every week. In this context, a few hundred mosquitoes per night is just a drop in the ocean. That’s why you can’t rely solely on traps to do everything. Think of traps as part of a larger strategy.
- Eliminate mosquito larvae
It is much easier to manage mosquito larvae than adult mosquitoes because they tend to be limited to a stagnant water source. For this reason, one of the first steps you should take is to identify sources of stagnant water on your property.
Look for buckets, uncovered garbage cans, tires, plastic pipes, or anything else that can collect even a small amount of water. You can also replace the water in a bird bath weekly. Since it usually takes at least a week for eggs to be laid, larvae to hatch, and grow to the adult stage, you don’t need to do this more often than weekly.
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- How to keep mosquitoes out of the house
There are several ways to keep mosquitoes away from your home:
- Mosquito screens: These should be installed on all windows and open doors. This allows for airflow into the house while preventing mosquitoes from entering. Consider also screening your porch. They were one of the first forms of pest control in homes and remain one of the most effective solutions. If you already have screens, check the seals around the edges and use a repair kit to fix any tears and keep mosquitoes at bay.
- Maintain your yard: Use a lawnmower, a string trimmer, or even a chainsaw to cut tall grass, shrubs, and tree branches. By reducing tall grass or shade-providing branches in your yard, you make the immediate habitat surrounding your home much less attractive to mosquitoes.
- Use a fan: Experts say fans can keep away anywhere from 45 to 65% of mosquitoes. A fan makes it more difficult for mosquitoes to fly and also helps disperse the carbon dioxide we emit when we breathe – a good thing, as mosquitoes use carbon dioxide as a guide to find people.
- How to correctly use mosquito repellent
Creams and lotions that protect us from insects are a good solution to keep mosquitoes away when we are outdoors. To make the solution effective, consider the following aspects:
- Apply the solution evenly. Mosquitoes can find and bite exposed skin the size of a coin. Therefore, it’s important to make sure you cover every inch of exposed skin.
- Shake the container and spray evenly on the skin from a distance of about 10-20 centimeters or according to the instructions on the label. In the case of lotions and wipes, also follow the instructions on the label; usually, a thin layer is applied to exposed areas of the skin.
- Avoid inhaling the repellent, so apply it in a well-ventilated space, away from open flames.
- Don’t forget about ankles and knees. Mosquitoes tend to be attracted to certain areas of the body, including ankles, feet, and knees.
Mosquitoes have become more than just a nuisance insect. The number of mosquitoes transmitting viruses such as West Nile, Dengue, or Zika is increasing from year to year. Likewise, the risk of being bitten by a virus-carrying mosquito is increasing. During the summer, we must take all necessary precautions to keep these insects away. From protecting our homes with screens and traps to protecting ourselves with mosquito repellent solutions. And if you suspect being bitten by a virus-carrying mosquito and experience symptoms following a bite, seek medical attention immediately.