It's mosquito season! Are you a victim? Or are you in-the-know about how to protect yourself and those around you?
Oh, how the warm spring weather lures us into the great outdoors! We are drawn to the woods, to the aromatic blooming [bzzzzsssning, smack! Sorry for the interruption] of the deep outdoors, or to the evening hanging out on a porch [bzzzzzing – smack! Sorry, again! For the interruption!] with friends. So warm…so peaceful! So greatly free of winter’s constrictions and burdens. So comforted by the long, long days. So…so…beset. Beset by the buzz and sting of mosquitos, summer fun-wreckers. Purveyors of merciless itch. Leaving you with welts, scratch-self-control-challenges, and vulnerability to viral diseases Massachusetts mosquitos can carry - like Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE or “triple E”) and West Nile Virus (WNV), which can lead to mild fever or more serious complications. There’s also Staying Indoors Syndrome, which can result in boredom, pallor, deflated Spirit, and loss of socialization.
There are myriad methods – both tried-and-true and inventive-and-might-work - for preventing bodily attack by mosquitos. Here are the tried-and-true methods:
- Bug repellant spray
That’s pretty much it in terms of what works for sure to prevent personal attack. Here are some give-it-a-go methods which some people swear by:
- Eat foods like garlic and onions
- Don’t eat foods like sugar, maybe even fruit, and do consume apple cider vinegar
- Take vitamin B1 as a supplement
It can feel personal, the stinging attacks, right? There you are, on your porch, flailing around, whisking away those tiny winged beings, while your buddies are sitting right next to you, reveling in the Franchise of Total Peace? (And you are hosting this gathering, right? It’s YOUR porch! No fair!) We really don’t know for sure why mosquitos unceremoniously go after some of us and not others. Is it political affiliation? High School GPA? Being a loyal friend? Impossible to be sure, but these things are unlikely attractors. I just don’t think they are. Some research indicates, though, that having Blood Type O makes you more attractive to mosquitos. O well. What can ya’ do?
Use bug repellant spray.
But if we really want to prevent personal mosquito attacks around where we live, we need to stick the landing on mosquito population control. (Listen to this Paul Anka song now.) When mosquitos fall in love and decide to start a family, almost all species (after crowdsourcing friends and family for suggestions and testimonies) use standing water as their delivery place. In other words, they lay their eggs (which become larvae, which then become pupae) in standing water. Standing water is water that stands still, sometimes for meditation practice, sometimes out of sheer dread or indecision, sometimes because of conditioned self-sabotage. When it comes to mosquito population control, however, the important thing about standing water is this: Water has to be standing still for about one week to allow the mosquito development process along towards producing newborn mosquitos that look adorable in onesies, but are actually adults. (I know it’s odd to visualize adults in onesies, but that’s how it is with mosquitos. I think they have every right to compensate for their short lifespans.) (Read here for possibly fascinating, probably off-puttingly detailed information about the life cycle of mosquitos.) Once those adult mosquitos are born, they have the requisite APGAR score, and are then released into YOUR yard, YOUR house, YOIUR apartment, to go after YOU, if you are blood type O, or had a reasonably good High School GPA.
There are tens of thousands of places right here in Cambridge where mosquitoes lay their eggs. Just go out and walk around. You’ll see filled kiddie pools, dormant flower pots, watering cans. Oh, and - sad to say - rain barrels. Of which there are lots all around our city, because they are the right thing to have. We build them. We buy them. They are ordinary. They are special. They are plastic. They are terra cotta. They are honorable. They are Sustainability. They are incubators.
I know what you’re thinking: “How heedless to publicize to the Mosquito Community that there are so many places to reproduce here in Cambridge!!” Judge not! Worry not! I have cleverly planned the publishing of this article to coincide with the all-a-buzz, disturbingly well-attended annual Mosquito Standing Water Convention, which takes place in a far-off part of Massachusetts. And it’s nearly factual that mosquitos do not do computer searches topically, but chronologically. So there you go. Stop worrying. About this, anyway. TAKE ACTION!! Prevent mosquito procreation easily by addressing the problem of standing water. Here’s what you can do (bzzz….SMACK! Sorry for the interruption!):
Store outdoor items inverted. For outdoor items that do not have bottom crevices, store them upside-down, if possible. (See our watering can, upright, collecting water, in slideshow above. Breeding ground. We store our can inverted. Protected.)
Stir things up. For items (like kiddie or wading pools) that you cannot store inverted, or, even if you invert them, they still collect water in crevices: Get into a habit of giving collected water a bit of a stir every day. You don’t need to take an egg beater or a helicopter to it. Just mess it up a little. Include your rain barrels in this habit. If you don’t need to water from them frequently, and if there’s infrequent rain, mess the water around inside.
Use mosquito dunks. These are two-inch diameter donut shaped disks that contain a bacteria toxic only to mosquito larvae. They are perfectly safe for children, pets, and all living creatures that are not mosquitos. I’ve used mosquito dunks for years in our rain barrels. You can toss a piece of mosquito dunk into any risky water puddle, knowing it will do its job. You don’t need to use the whole dunk. In fact, the water surface area is the guide to how much dunk to use. See dunk package instructions on this.
For our rain barrels, to keep the dunks from both falling apart and/or flowing out when watering, I literally encase my dunk piece in a slice of swimming pool noodle (any color is fine) with a two-stone anchor pouch attached in order to bob the dunk just below the water surface. Here’s how to make these contrivances. It’s easy, and there are photos (above) in the slideshow:
- Break off a piece of dunk. (Follow package directions for water surface area guidance on dunk piece size.) Cut off a one-inch slice of pool noodle. Tuck the dunk piece into the hole in the middle of the noodle slice.
- Cut off a round, eight-inch diameter piece of thin, tightly woven, polyester or nylon netting. Wrap the noodle with the dunk piece in it, leaving a few inches of met edging. Snug it tight around the noodle, and tie it with a six-inch plastic twist-tie. (Twist a couple of ties together if you need to.) Set aside.
- Take another eight-inch diameter piece of the netting, and plop a couple of smooth one-inch stones onto the center. Cinch it closed with another six-inch plastic twist tie. This stone-bag will keep your noodle slightly below the surface, but not sink it down.
- Using the extra twist tie ends, twist the two pouches together. And confidently (and belligerently) drop the tied-together pouches into the rain barrel. You will see the dunk pouch hanging just below the surface, and the stone pouch dragging underneath it.
- Every month until the first frost (or later, if warm weather returns), fish the whole thing out, open the dunk pouch, pull out and replace the crumbly dunk. Tie the pouch and reconnect it to the stone bag.
- After the first frost (or later, if warm weather returns), remove the pouches. Open them, clean out the dunk crud from the noodle, clean everything, let it all dry, and store it all for next year. When it will inevitably start again, with the buzzing and biting. And the onesies, if you are not careful.
But if we are careful, at the end of the mosquito season, you will find very few adult mosquito onesies lying around. If you do find any, be charitable: Collect, wash, and send them to the Standing Water Convention in Parmel, Massachusetts. You’ll feel good about yourself. And Paul Anka will thanka.