The mosquito is a tiny insect but a large trouble maker. Throughout history, mankind has seen the devastation caused by them and most people would like to get rid of mosquitoes and be free of their itching bites. Today there are hundreds of different types of mosquitoes found in different parts of the world. Of the nearly 3400 species of mosquitoes prevalent today, the Aedes sollicitans – which prospers in marshes – is the most exasperating. Humans have unfortunately provided easy transportation to this species as a result of which it is found in almost every part of the world-barring Antarctica.
The Aedes mosquito is a deadly species known to be a vector of many diseases including dengue, yellow fever, as well as lymphatic filariasis. It is invasive and difficult to manage, so pest control is of utmost importance. Worry not, because I will be here to guide you throughout the process and show you how you can get rid of mosquitoes from your home and outdoors, and protect you and your family from their bites, which can potentially be dangerous. So let us start with the basics.
What are mosquitoes?
Mosquitoes are tiny parasitic insects that bite animals and humans. Female mosquitoes are the ones to bite and spread deadly diseases. These blood meals help them reproduce and make eggs. On an average, an adult mosquito has a lifespan of 2 weeks to 6 months, depending on environmental factors like how warm and moist their environment is. It also varies between different species. Factors like predators (and anyone trying to get rid of mosquitoes) will naturally also affect their lifespan.
Life cycle of mosquitoes
A deeper understanding of the type of pest you are dealing with will help you get rid of mosquitoes more effectively. Here are the different stages that a mosquito goes through in its life cycle.
A single female mosquito can lay between 1000-5000 eggs in a lifetime, usually near standing water bodies, stagnant pools and ponds or containers with stale water.
The eggs can survive for up to 5 years before hatching.
Mosquito larvae and pupae
Young mosquitoes or larvae live in water. They develop into pupae in 5 days by feeding on bacteria and fungi in the water.
The pupae continue living in water and turn into adult mosquitoes within 2-3 days.
Once they are adults, mosquitoes pair up and mate. After mating, the females seek out humans or animals for blood meals. This gives them the energy to lay eggs.
Female mosquitoes need plenty of blood meals to lay eggs. She finds her hosts by sight and smell and drinks nearly 5 millionths blood per attack.
What do mosquitoes look like?
A mosquito has a tough body with an exoskeleton that covers it entirely, including the eyes. The body is divided into head, thorax and abdomen. Each one weighs about 2.5 milligrams. Most species of mosquitoes are black and brown though some may be brightly colored and some might have stripes. The size of a mosquito’s body is about the size of grain of rice. Male mosquitoes are generally smaller than the females.
The head contains the eyes and antennae. Eyes are compound and look huge-in fact they really are hundreds of seeing units packed tightly together which allows the insect to look in each and every direction, all at once. The antennae are a pair of movable feelers with tiny hair that can sense chemicals. On the mouth there is a sharp proboscis at the tip and this is what is used to bite, feed or suck blood from humans and animals.
There are two see-through wings on the thorax fringed with scales that allow flight. Behind the hind wings you will find club like growths called halteres which help with balance and steering. Legs are attached to the thorax; the legs and feet are long and thin and mosquitoes use them to walk and hold on to their host. The legs are extremely delicate – a feature which allows the mosquito to land gently and go unnoticed.
The abdomen has tiny holes along the sides called the spiracles which allow air in and out of the body for breathing.
Do mosquitoes bite and what are the symptoms?
Mosquito bites can be very annoying and painful especially to people allergic to them. In such cases, mosquito saliva causes the body to produce histamine which leads to itching and other allergic symptoms such as:
- Pus filled blisters
- Red welts
- Extreme itchiness
It is important not to scratch the bitten area as it can lead to secondary skin infections that are a lot harder to treat. Apart from these symptoms, mosquitoes can also spread diseases that can make people sick or even kill them. That’s why mosquitoes should be considered as public enemies.
How to treat mosquito bites on humans
You cannot get rid of mosquitoes bites, but you can take steps to control the itching. If you have been bitten in numerous areas of the body, it is best to take a warm bath and use a mild antibacterial soap to stop the itch. Alternatively, soak in a tub bath with warm water mixed with baking soda or colloidal oatmeal. This will give you instant relief from pain, swelling and itching. Next, apply hydrocortisone cream (over-the-counter, 1%) to prevent itchiness. You can also apply pure Aloe Vera gel or lotion, Calamine lotion or a paste of baking soda and water. If the itching is driving you crazy, take some Benadryl for relief.
Are mosquitoes dangerous?
Mosquitoes are sure to have you for dinner, leaving you with numerous itchy bites in the morning. And as if that weren’t enough, they also spread unpleasant diseases like malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever and recently even the Zika virus. A disease called encephalitis or brain fever is also caused by mosquitoes and has terrible symptoms like vomiting, headaches, stiffness of neck and back, seizures, memory loss and delirium. Recovery of most mosquito borne illnesses takes up to 2-3 weeks and very bad cases can require hospitalization. If there are neurological complications, the symptoms can last for months. Here is a list of viral diseases spread by mosquitoes:
- Yellow fever
- Easter equine encephalitis
- LaCrosse encephalitis
- West Nile virus
- Systematic lupus erythematosus
Many of these diseases begin with flu-like symptoms that rapidly progress. There are no known medicines for them, only treatment of individual symptoms. Malaria is characterized by bursting of red blood cells which gives the patient very bad shaking chills. Many of these diseases can result in severe anemia, kidney or liver failure ultimately resulting in death.
Signs of a mosquito infestation
Do developed countries like America have mosquitoes? Definitely! Loads of them. In fact; every summer, the CDC or the Center of Disease Control publishes a report of the most infected areas in the country to help travelers prepare for their visit. Mosquitoes are very common in developing countries as well as thick forest areas, or areas with water bodies, stagnant pools and ponds etc. In general, mosquitoes prefer warm humid climate and seek water bodies for reproduction. Here are signs of mosquito infestation at home:
- Mosquitoes flap their wings at 600 vibrations per second. This produces an annoying buzz which just might wake you up at night.
- You might see them buzzing around your picnic table, especially after sunset.
- Mosquitoes are most likely present around you on summer evenings, around your barbecue or campfires. They love to trouble you on your hikes, camping trips and treks.
- People aren’t always allergic to their bites but those who are usually wake up scratching or with numerous raised bumps, welts or blisters on their bodies.
Why you may have a mosquito problem
Mankind has made it rather easy for mosquitoes to get by and infest places that were earlier devoid of these creatures. They hitchhike in our luggage, cars, buses and air planes to enter into our homes. Hot, humid conditions along with standing water bodies make it rather easy for mosquitoes to reproduce and thrive. As stated above, mosquito eggs can remain active for up to 5 years before hatching. Here are reasons why you may have a mosquito problem:
- Unclean bathrooms, sinks, shower stalls and tubs become breeding grounds for mosquitoes thanks to stagnant water left standing for weeks.
- Accumulation of rain water in old tires, buckets, planters, birdbaths, toys, bins, trash cans, flower pot saucers etc encourages their growth.
How to get rid of mosquitoes
You can follow these steps to get rid of mosquitoes and learn how to take the necessary precautions to avoid getting bitten.
Step 1 – Take steps to prevent mosquito bites
Mosquito bites, as stated above, can be extremely annoying and in some cases, even fatal. In most cases, you will see swarms of mosquitoes around summer time when the climate is hot and humid. You can wear protective clothing like long sleeved shirts, or apply insecticides or herbal mosquito deterrent products on your skin and clothing. EPA approved insecticides sprays/creams such as DEET or picardin repel mosquitoes due to their strong scent. In case you are sensitive to these chemicals or do not like their smell, you can use essential oils like tea tree oil, lavender oil etc which also repel bugs. It is best to use air conditioning at night as mosquitoes hate cold. A mosquito net can also come in handy if your doors and windows do not have screens on them and is particularly useful on camping trips.
Step 2 – Get informed
As a part of effective mosquito control, you need to rely on various sources for information. This is particularly important if you are traveling to mosquito infested areas. Also, your neighborhood can have sudden rise in mosquito populations for which stagnant or standing water bodies could be responsible. To reduce standing water sources, you must call the concerned authorities or plan projects with the community. Regular spraying of larvicides and insecticides can help reduce mosquito populations.
Step 3 – Remove standing water sources inside and around the house
Standing water provides breeding ground for mosquitoes to lay thousands of eggs. Female mosquitoes need water to lay eggs and the larvae and pupa feed on bacteria and fungi in the water to continue their life cycle. Therefore, it is very important to eliminate standing water sources in and around the house to protect your loved ones from mosquito bites. It is important to maintain cleanliness and hygiene in kitchen and bathrooms where water accumulates. Your yard is another area you need to maintain. Reduce clutter and debris which allows rain water accumulation. Clean buckets, water containers, tanks and bird baths and empty and drain flower pots, planters etc to reduce mosquito populations.
Step 4 – Spray insecticides outdoors
Many a times, it is not possible to empty standing water. In such a case, a larvicide can be used to break the reproductive cycle of mosquitoes and stop them from becoming adults. Larvicides prevent larvae from becoming adults which can curb the incidents of bites. Spraying of insecticides can be done at any time of the day or night. Once dried, these products do not cause any harm to humans. Trained professionals can use the insecticides and larvicides that are safe and effective. Your local town office can recommend the right product or even spray around your neighborhood. If you plan to spray insecticides yourself, make sure you follow instructions on how to spray. Protect your nose and mouth with a mask, and your eyes with goggles. Treat non-drinking water sources with larvicides or mosquito dunks available in grocery/medical stores.
Step 5 – Install screens on windows and doors
Screened windows and doors help keep mosquitoes outside your home. Studies show that homes with screened doors and windows are less likely to have mosquitoes inside them. Contact your hardware store to have screens installed. If your existing screens are torn, have them replaced or fixed immediately. Invest in mosquito nets in case you do not use screens and be sure to cover up the area where you sleep.
Step 6 – Spray an indoor insecticide
Indoor insecticide spraying is also very effective in killing adult mosquitoes and is beneficial if you cannot install screen doors. Many EPA approved insecticide sprays are readily available in the market in grocery stores or hardware shops. Alternatively, you can contact a local pest control company to spray your premises. Spraying can be done any time of the day. Spray around cool dark areas such as underneath furniture, bathroom drains, under the beds, around head boards, behind picture frames, around electrical outlets, around trash cans, and in laundry rooms. Once dried, the product does not harm pets and humans.
Step 7 – Use indoor foggers
Indoor foggers are effective aerosols to get rid of mosquitoes inside the home. It is important to follow the instructions on the products. You must use goggles to protect your eyes and a mask for your nose and mouth. Remove or cover pet bowls and protect your fish tanks, if any. It is best to relocate your family and pets during the course of the treatment. You can return home once the fog has dried up.
Step 8 – Clean up the community
Educate your neighbors about the dangers and hazards of mosquito bites by talking to them and handing them informational flyers. Make community-wide efforts to remove trash and prevent stagnant water harborage. Remove trash cans and garbage around the neighborhood as well as stagnant water sources to make the area uninhabitable for mosquitoes.
Step 9 – Take anti-malaria medication if you plan to travel to mosquito infested areas
In case you plan on traveling to foreign countries or areas known to be infested, take preventative steps and educate yourself about the risk. Talk to your doctor about the medicines to carry and pills to take before/during/after the trip. Use insect repellents (sprays, creams, mosquito coils etc) and protective clothing when in mosquito infested areas.
Not all mosquitoes are the same and different species spread different viruses and even bite at different times of the day. Therefore, it is very important to prevent mosquitoes throughout the day to protect you and your family.
Step 1 – Use a repellent
The EPA or Environmental Protection Agency has approved many insect repellents that deter mosquitoes safely. You can even use them when pregnant or breastfeeding and they are also safe and effective for use on kids. (Note that the EPA recommends some of these products for babies above 2 months of age, but you should research this carefully). The best mosquito repellents include DEET, Picaridin, OLE or oil or Lemon Eucalyptus and 2-undecanone. You can rub the lotion/cream or spray it on exposed parts of the body. Always use repellents when you are in mosquito infested areas. Use the product as per label instructions. Make sure you reapply it every 2-3 hours.
Step 2 – Protect infants from mosquitoes
If you have a baby, especially below the age of 2 months, you must talk to your pediatrician about the right mosquito repellent to use. Do not use products containing strong essential oils like OLE or Lemon Eucalyptus, Tea tree etc as these can trigger allergies in some babies. It is best to use a mosquito net over the child’s bedding and dress the infant in clothing that covers its arms and legs. When outdoors, cover the child’s stroller with a protective net. If using repellents, avoid getting the product in the child’s eyes and mouth. Some mosquitoes bite during the day and afternoon, spreading deadly diseases like Zika virus. So protect the child from mosquitoes 24/7.
Step 3 – Treat your clothing and gear
If you plan to hike or camp in thick forest areas, make sure you use protective gear. These days, permethrin treated clothing is readily available in the market and it protects the user from many kinds of bugs including mosquitoes, ticks etc. They also remain effective up to 100 washes. You can yoruself treat your camping gear, bags, boots and clothes with DEET or Permethrin based sprays before leaving on the trip.
Step 4 – Mosquito proof your home
Mosquitoes can easily enter into our homes through open doors and windows and there is little we can do to avoid this completely. However, we can take several precautions such as installing window and door screens and using mosquito nets over the beds. Cleanliness and hygiene also plays an important role in mosquito prevention. Once a week, scrub buckets, water tanks, bathroom tiles, tubs, kitchen sinks etc. Also empty water collected under planters, in flower pots, birdbaths etc. Minimize rain water accumulation in yards by minimizing clutter.
Mosquitoes want one thing from you and that is your blood. They also may leave something behind, such as itchy bumps or worse, a virus. Use nets, sprays, screen doors, insect repellents and other deterrents where you have a mosquito problem. Good luck, I hope this guide helps you get rid of mosquitoes quickly.