One of the worst sounds of summer is the high-pitched, droning buzz of a mosquito as it zips past your ear. These blood-sucking fiends have ruined more than their fair share of cookouts, trips to the lake, and evening walks. Beyond the itchy, miserable bites they bestow, however, is the very real threat of diseases carried by mosquitoes. Zika, West Nile, dengue, and malaria are most common in tropical climates–but not unheard of in the United States.
To minimize your risk–and maximize your summer outdoor fun–we’ve put together some tips to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes.
Your first line of defense is to keep mosquitoes away from your home in the first place. These bugs breed in standing water–and not just ponds. Larva can develop in small amounts of still water, such as rain that’s collected in an old flowerpot or a birdbath.
Dump out any containers with standing water, then either dispose of them or ensure that rain can’t collect in them again. In the case of birdbaths and ornamental ponds, add a solar-powered fountain so that the water doesn’t get a chance to stay still.
One neglected area in many homes are the gutters. If you’ve put off cleaning them for too long, debris may have blocked the channels–and trapped water. Yes, mosquitoes could be breeding on your roof! It only takes two weeks to go from egg to adult insect, so don’t put off mosquito-proofing your home.
Mosquito repellents containing DEET are proven to be the longest-lasting and most-effective way to keep the insects from biting you. However, some people have concerns about side-effects for themselves and the environment when using chemical bug sprays.
Natural repellents such as essential oils can be almost as effective. Peppermint, lemongrass, catnip, and lemon eucalyptus are all good choices. Another option is picaridin, a repellent that’s also good for keeping away ticks. Picaridin is sprayed on the skin–feet and ankles are the best areas to treat–while another product called permethrin can be used to treat clothing, shoes, and tents for long-lasting insect protection.
Another pro tip? Wear light-colored fabrics that don’t fit too closely. Long sleeves and pants will offer not only mosquito protection but also shield your skin from harmful UV rays. You can also help keep mosquitoes away from outdoor living spaces such as patios and porches with an electric fan. The insects aren’t very good at flying, and the air currents will make it much harder for them to reach you in the first place.