Mosquito Maddness
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Bzzzzz, swat! Ah, the familiar sounds of summer. What are those pesky insects and why do they bite? We break down the answers for you, including how you can protect yourself this season.

What are they?

Mosquitoes are insects that have been around for more than 30 million years. They hibernate during the winter and breed during the warmer months, laying between 100 and 400 eggs on the surface of standing water anywhere it can be found. Over a period of 10 days (when the temperature is favorable) the mosquito will develop from an egg to an adult.


Why do they bite?

Both male and female mosquitoes feed on nectar from flowers. Females must also feed on blood to produce eggs, which they lay about every 3rd night. Most mosquitoes in the wild feed on animals in their habitat, typically from dusk until a few hours after dark.

With over 3000 species of mosquitoes in the world, characteristics of each kind will differ greatly from one to the next. While some species prefer the blood of birds (such as the Culex mosquito), others prefer the blood of humans and cattle (such as the Anopheles mosquito).


How do they zone in on their prey?

Mosquitoes are blessed with a number of sensors designed to track their prey, including:


Chemical Sensors

Mosquitoes can sense carbon dioxide and lactic acid up to 100 feet away. These gases are given off by mammals and birds as part of their normal breathing. Certain chemicals in sweat also seem to attract these pesky insects, which is why people who don’t sweat as much don’t get as many bites.


Visual Sensors

Mosquitoes are attracted to clothing that contrasts with the environment, especially if you are moving in this clothing.


Heat Sensors

Mosquitoes can detect heat, making it very easy to find warm-blooded mammals and birds once they are close enough.


Are they dangerous?

Mosquitoes are known carriers of many global diseases, including the West Nile Virus. They transfer the virus to humans after becoming infected themselves by feeding on the blood of birds that carry the virus. Many people infected have either no symptoms or they have flu-like symptoms. Sometimes the virus can cause severe illness and even death.


How can you protect yourself?

Protect yourself by controlling breeding sites. Remove any stagnant water where mosquitoes could lay eggs, including:

  • Storing flower pots, watering cans, boats, and wheelbarrows upside down
  • Emptying tire swings of water and, if possible, replace them with another type of swing
  • Cover any garbage, recycling or compost containers, to prevent water from accumulating in them
  • Drill holes in the bottom of containers that must be left outdoors uncovered
  • Replace water in bird baths and pet dishes at least twice a week to help eliminate stagnant water
  • Keep your swimming pool aerated, cleaned and chlorinated, even if it’s not being used
  • Keep your gutter cleaned

Protect yourself by limiting outdoor activities during mosquito season (May to September for most of Canada) between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.

If you are outside, take the following precautions:

  • Wear long pants and sleeves, and shoes and socks when outdoors when mosquitoes are most active
  • Wear loose clothes made up tightly woven materials that keep mosquitoes away from skin
  • Use mosquito netting when sleeping outdoors or in an unscreened structure and to protect infants when outdoors
  • If you choose to use a personal insect repellent, follow label directions carefully


What doesn’t work at keeping mosquitoes away?

  • Citronella candles – used outdoors around patios, picnic tables and decks
  • Bug zappers – placed outdoors
  • Electronic mosquito repellers – that emit high frequency sound
  • Claims that certain plants placed around a porch or deck will repel mosquitoes

 In general, these devices have not demonstrated effectiveness at reducing mosquito populations and the nuisance caused by these insects.

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