What’s the Buzz?
It’s not your imagination: Mosquitos are out to get you this summer like never before. Parts of the country are reporting the worst infestations in years. A combination of drought, followed by heavy rains and heat is being blamed for record numbers of the bloodsucking insects in parts of the country, including the Southeast and the upper Midwest. According to the Associated Press, mosquitoes in Minnesota, where I live, have been trapped at a rate this year that’s triple the ten-year average.
Of course, mosquitos are nothing new in Minnesota. Some jokingly call them “Minnesota’s State Bird.” But this year they’re no joke, here or anywhere else. Mosquitos notoriously carry various blood borne diseases. Since the late 1990s, West Nile Virus has moved to the head of a list that has included malaria, dengue fever and yellow fever, among other diseases. There were fewer that 300 cases of West Nile Virus in the United States last year, but the fact remains it’s no longer wise to venture out unprotected in the summer. Only female mosquitos drink blood. They need it to lay eggs, which can hatch by the thousands within days. Standing stagnant water of just an inch or two is all that’s needed for more of these pests to hatch.
While I hesitate to recommend chemical repellants, like DEET, there may be some alternatives that can help. For instance: 1) Wear light clothing. Mosquitos are attracted to dark colors. 2) Avoid wearing floral fragrances, which may attract mosquitos. Avoid scents from perfumes, hairspray, scented sunscreens and even scented fabric softeners. 3) Consider applying natural repellents made from volatile plant oils, such as citronella, geranium, rosemary, cedar, peppermint, clove or cinnamon. They may need to be reapplied more frequently than chemical repellents. Some people are sensitive to plant oils, so use caution with natural oils. 4) Avoid going out in early evening or early morning; mosquitos are most active at these times of day.