Swwwaaaat! SMACK! Itch-itch-itch.
Bah. Mosquitos and the outdoors just go together during summer, and shooing away the buggers can feel like mission impossible.
They’re just so swift. They’re just so annoying. Sure as a poolside sunburn, you’ll get bitten by a mosquito this year. And while we love all creatures great and small — full respect for nature’s complex food chain, here — what is the deal with these pests?
Mosquitos can and do carry disease. They’re not the only ones, of course, but news reports of Zika Virus and West Nile cases are changing our perception of the pesky fly from “basic nuisance” to something much worse. Meanwhile, there are lots of reminders these days that we shouldn’t have to live with these things. Mosquito Joe, a national franchise that sells mosquito-prevention services, offers up this clever tagline: Outside is Fun Again. The implication being: *You know, if you get rid of the mosquitos*.
Still, we all know that mosquitos do not completely ruin summer. You’ll still go outside to play, host a barbecue, tinker in the garden, run through the sprinkler, frequent your favorite parks. No one keeps a warm-weather-loving Northeast Ohioan from soaking in this sweet time of year. Outside is where you’ll be.
So how much do you actually need to worry about Zika? The good news is, the public health threat is actually quite small. According to Stan Cope, an entomologist with Terminix and president of the American Mosquito Control Association, only 1 in 5 people with Zika actually develop a clinical illness. “I will not downplay the risk to pregnant women, which is a tremendous health concern,” he adds. In May, NPR reported that there were 157 cases in pregnant women in the United States — a pretty small number, all things considered, but still…
West Nile, on the other hand, is present in 48 states, and there were 2,000 cases in 2015. Should you freak out? “We take risks every day. We drive cars,” Cope quips. There’s no reason to stop doing your outdoor thing.
That said, you can be smart about keeping mosquitos at bay in your backyard.
And who doesn’t want to put the kibosh on those stinkers? Here are some low-tech, chemical-free ideas to reduce mosquito-breeding sites. (And we promise, you have these on your property. We all do.)
If your container plantings are equipped with handy saucers for collecting excess water, be sure to dump them out. Any container that collects water is a happy place for mosquitos to nest in and multiply. Fun fact: A couple hundred larvae can populate in a vessel as small as a bottle cap. (Yuck!)
Dry off kids’ toys
The classic plastic kiddie pool is a favorite spot for mosquitos to hang out, because even tipped over after use these toys still manage to collect water in the brim and indented areas. Mosquitos look at these water-trapping devices as prime real estate.
Screen your home
Open your windows and let the fresh air in — just be sure screens are in place. Keep your doors closed. If you’ve got a problem with this (like a notoriously in-and-out child), then consider a mosquito screen. Cope notes that mosquitos that spread Zika have a tendency to fly indoors.
Clean your gutters
You know how gunky gutters can get after a year of forgetting about them. They collect all sorts of tree droppings, sticks, and, of course, water. Which is the point. But you want that water to flow out. When your gutters are clogged with junk, you’ve got a nesting place for bugs. Mosquitos like to breed in wet areas full of mulch and foliage for the same reasons.
Choose an EPA-registered repellant to keep mosquitos away. Wear long sleeves and pants on your hike. (You can find wicking materials that will breathe and keep you cool.) There is even clothing treated with permethrin (the active ingredient that repels mosquitos) that is completely safe.
Avoid prime time
Happy hours for mosquitos are generally at dusk and dawn.
Take the precautions suggested here. Then get outdoors to enjoy summer! It’s more likely indoor mosquitoes will be a nuisance. The season fades too quickly and we can’t soak in enough of these balmy days.