With summer just around the corner, you’ve probably already started hitting the gym more often and preparing your body for endless hours of parties, sunbaths, and swimming sessions.
However, one thing we can all agree that might ruin every summer party, barbecue or outdoor activity is the annoying presence of mosquitoes, so perhaps finding some good repellents or checking out some online reviews of bug zappers will help us all enjoy a carefree summer.
Here is everything you need to know about these insects, how dangerous they are, and how to protect yourself from their bites.
Mosquitoes represent a group of nearly 3500 species of small insects that resemble flies. In fact, the original word means “little fly” in Spanish. They thrive in hot and humid environments so you’ll most likely see them near lakes, forests, ponds, and swamps.
Nevertheless, mosquitoes find their way into the concrete jungle of large cities and are considered amongst the deadliest creatures in the world.
These insects are carriers of various dangerous diseases and viruses, including the Zika virus, dengue, the West Nile virus, yellow fever, malaria, encephalitis, and others. Although there is a widespread belief that mosquitoes may also carry AIDS, there are no relevant studies so far to support this hypothesis.
Contrary to what people might know, mosquitoes don’t only feed on human blood but on various vertebrate hosts, including birds, reptiles, and mammals.
Typically, both female and male mosquitoes feed on plant juices and nectar, but females from many species have specifically adapted mouthparts that can pierce the skin of hosts and suck blood.
In other words, male mosquitoes don’t bite and don’t feed on blood. This practice is reserved solely to females, and there are some reasons, depending on the species of mosquitoes we’re talking about. In many species, females have to obtain special nutrients from blood meals before they can lay eggs and reproduce, while in other species, a blood meal usually helps a female produce more eggs.
Similar to all other insects and animals, mosquitoes need a powerful source of proteins to be able to reproduce, and this can mainly be found in the blood. Although plant meals provide useful sources of energy and sugars, the necessary proteins for reproduction can only be taken out of blood meals.
How do mosquitoes choose their prey?
These insects have various methods of finding their preys, and that includes heat, visual, and chemical sensors. Their feeding behavior has been intensively studied in the past decades, revealing fascinating information regarding the survival of the species.
As you may already know, there are various factors that attract mosquitoes to their human preys. Here are the most important:
These insects thrive in hot and humid environments, so it comes as no surprise that they’re looking for similar conditions in their human preys as well. As a general rule, mosquitoes are more attracted to individuals who have a higher body temperature.
Unfortunately, there isn’t too much you can do to adjust your body temperature except for staying in cooler environments or wear fewer clothes. However, this doesn’t guarantee that you will become less appealing to female mosquitoes.
Excess sweat is also appealing to mosquitoes but, unlike one’s body temperature, the sweating process can be altered so that you don’t have to deal with these deadly insects anymore.
One way to handle the situation is to lower the temperature in your house by a few degrees, especially during the summer. Working and living in cool and dry environments will help regulate your body temperature and prevent you from sweating too much.
Using deodorants and powders to absorb extra sweat is another way to look after your personal hygiene and prevent mosquitoes from trying out your blood.
In some extreme cases, people can even opt for botulinum toxin injections, commonly known as botox. The toxin is injected in the armpits of a person to block the sweating glands and prevent excess sweating. However, you need to talk to a doctor and run some tests before deciding on this intervention.
Studies conducted in 2004 have revealed that people with O blood type are 87% more prone to mosquito bites than those with other blood types. Usually, female mosquitoes find their blood host by detecting certain organic substances produced by the host, including carbon dioxide.
However, higher amounts of carbon dioxide are also exhaled by pregnant women, heavy breathers, and athletes after a workout. All these categories of people may also be more susceptible to mosquito bites, regardless of their blood type.
Alcohol is another important factor that attracts these blood-sucking insects. The reason behind this is that almost all types of alcohol contain sugars that enter the blood and make it smell and taste better. However, beer and dry vodka don’t normally contain sugars, which makes them safer drinks for you to enjoy while camping in the summer.
The same logic applies to perfumes and scented body lotions that can trigger a mosquito’s senses and help it find its victim faster.
How to prevent mosquito bites
These nasty insects are the number one reason why people cannot properly enjoy a night by the lake or by the seaside in the company of their favorite friends or significant others. However, there are plenty of efficient methods that can help you dramatically decrease the number of mosquito bites on your skin and allow you to perform your favorite activities.
First of all, you need to know that most mosquito species are crepuscular feeders, meaning they prefer eating at dawn or dusk. During these times, it would be better to cover yourself with thick clothes that won’t allow the mouths of the insects to penetrate your skin and feed on you.
However, there are some species, such as the Asian tiger mosquito, that prefer feeding during the daytime. In order to protect yourself from their bites, you should consider wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts, especially if you go camping or near water sources such as ponds, swamps, and lakes.
Studies in the field have also shown that these insects are mainly attracted to specific colors like red, dark blue, and black, so you might want to avoid them on your clothes.
If you still want to enjoy your favorite daytime and nighttime activities in the summer without wearing baggy clothes or worrying about mosquito bites, you can simply choose some insect repellents. They come in the form of body mists and sprays and, while they have a strong smell, they will keep every inch of your skin protected.
Adding nets to your doors and windows will also prevent insects and bugs from coming inside, protecting your family from dangerous bacteria, viruses, and diseases.
However, as popular as bug zappers are nowadays, they don’t seem to affect the mosquito population too much. They can be used both indoors and indoors and will catch numerous insects and small bugs, including flies, wasps, and pests, but they may not be as efficient in killing mosquitoes.