Get the facts about those blood-sucking mosquitoes
Doesn’t it stand to reason that you should know a thing or two -- facts, not myths -- about a creature that drinks your blood, a creature that will likely drink your blood tonight?
When it comes to mosquitoes, the flying bloodsuckers of dusk and dawn, myths abound.
And now, after late-summer heavy rains in the area, mosquitoes are out in force.
So break out the dryer sheets, the mustard, the citronella candles and the toothpaste.
Prepare a batch of baking soda and water. Fire up the bug zappers.
The flying ladies -- Fact: males don’t attack -- of the wet summer months are buzzing about, seeking their final draughts of your delicious, protein-rich blood. But what works? What stops the itch? What wards them off?
Fact: Mosquitoes are attracted by CO2.
Breathe in, breathe out, attract mosquitoes. “Carbon dioxide is the most universally recognized mosquito attractant and draws mosquitoes from up to 35 meters,” says mosquito.org.
Fact: Mosquito bites affect some more than others.
Robert Hamilton, a biology professor at Kent State Stark, said he once read that “1 to 5 percent of people in the world are actually not affected. ... The irritation is basically an allergic reaction, and there are a few lucky people who it does not bother.”
Fact: Axe Body Spray attracts more than hoards of women.
“I’m not sure about mosquitoes,” Hamilton said. “But if you are going to be outside for extended amounts of time, do not wear cologne, fragrant perfume or deodorant -- or you will make a lot of insect friends.”
Myth: The fingernail X-out technique can eliminate itching.
Although proponents of this technique are abundant, it’s unlikely that jamming a fingernail into a mosquito bite to produce the indentation of an “X” offers anything aside from a psychological benefit. After all, the itch is caused by an allergic reaction.
Fact: Not all mosquitoes are the same.
At least 58 species exist in Ohio, and only a few of them are annoyances, according to Ohio State University’s department of agriculture Web site. Hamilton warns that the number of species in the area may grow. “We’ve had a hot, humid summer, and that could potentially attract other species of mosquitoes that we have not seen before,” he said.
Fact: Mosquitoes are more attracted to some people.
It’s somewhat of a mystery, but mosquitoes do tend to be more attracted to some people. Diet may be a factor. Hamilton said he’s read that mosquitoes seem to be attracted to those who consume a lot of milk, cheese and bananas.
Myth: Bug zappers save the day.
No, they don’t. They are “indiscriminate killers,” said Hamilton. “They kill more of the organisms that eat mosquitoes than mosquitoes themselves.”
Fact: Citronella candles do the trick.
It’s true, but a single candle can’t hold back the masses. In lab environments, Hamilton said, citronella has been effective at repelling various insects. But when it comes to the patio environment, a number of factors come into play. “The effectiveness is enhanced or limited by how many candles you’re burning. Are you sitting in the smoke trail? Are you
trying to cover a large area with one candle?”
Fact: The boring methods work.
Sprays containing DEET are the most effective repellents. To stop the itch, the Mayo Clinic’s Web site recommends calamine lotion, antihistamines, hydrocortisone creams “or a baking soda paste -- with a ratio of 3 teaspoons baking soda to 1 teaspoon water.”
Fact: Male mosquitoes don’t bother humans.
“Male mosquitoes are actually sensitive vegetarians, living on nectar and plant juices,” says an article on discovermagazine.com. “Only females drink blood, for protein to make eggs.”
Myth: Mosquitoes can spread HIV.
Mosquitoes and other insects cannot spread HIV, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention Web site. “HIV lives for only a short time inside an insect and, unlike organisms that are transmitted via insect bites, HIV does not reproduce (and does not survive) in insects,” the site says. However, mosquitoes do spread malaria, West Nile virus, dengue fever and yellow fever.
Fact: Any remedy or repellent might work.
Whether you’re slathering Vick’s VapoRub on your bites or using garlic gloves to ward the pests off, when it comes to fighting mosquitoes and their damage, anything that alters your smell or seems to stop the itching is worth a shot. “It’s very possible,” Hamilton said, that anything that alters our scent might repel mosquitoes. And when it comes to the itch, it’s essential not to scratch. “Putting almost anything on them helps as long as I don’t scratch them,” Hamilton said. “So some of it might even be psychological with myself and other people.”
Misnomer: Mosquitoes don’t bite. They inject their syringes and suck.