Oh, No! A Mosquito! How to Keep These Pests at Bay

  |  Gorp.com
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Mosquitoes suck!
Mosquitoes suck!  (iStockphoto)

Consisting of 3,500 species worldwide, culicidae, better known as mosquitoes, are one of the most-hated families of creatures on the planet, and these nasty little insects are having themselves a banner year in the U.S. in 2012.

“Nationwide we're having a bumper crop,” says mosquito expert Joseph Conlon of Jacksonville, Florida. “It's really due to rainfall patterns.” Hot temperatures haven't hurt either, he notes, but droughts don't really matter all that much: Mosquito eggs can survive in dry ground for several years.

Conlon knows mosquitoes. The retired Navy entomologist has fought them off all over the world, from the Florida wetlands to the jungles of Africa. Today he's the spokesperson for the New Jersey-based American Mosquito Control Association, which counts manufacturers, academics, and public health departments and other governmental entities among its 1,600 members.

And Conlon is not biased toward any one particular method of repelling mosquitoes, as the AMCA's manufacturer members compete against one another. He just wants people to protect themselves from all of the diseases that mosquitoes can transmit. While most species are harmless, mosquitoes can carry a wide range of blood-borne diseases like West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis in the U.S., not to mention malaria and worse overseas.

Both West Nile and Eastern Equine Encephalitis can be fatal if untreated, and Conlon is bracing for a bad fall for both. Then there are the itchy bumps left in the mosquitoes' wake. Not to mention that, in mosquito meccas like the Everglades in the Alaskan wilderness, there's your sanity to consider as well. “In Alaska, it's so bad, it will literally drive you crazy,” warns Conlon.

Here are Conlon's top travel safety tips for keeping these annoying bloodsuckers at bay:

1. Dress properly. “Any part of your body that's not covered is fair game,” he says. “The more of your body that's covered in loose-fitting clothing, the better. They can bite through spandex.”

2. Check repellents for certification from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC). “It's been proven that they work,” says Conlon. He recommends DEET formulations of 25 to 30 percent, picaridin (a synthetic pepper mimic) with a concentration of around 15 percent, or natural oil of lemon eucalyptus in formulations of around 30 percent. Picaridin is not greasy or smelly like many DEET-based products, he adds, noting that DEET has gotten some bad press in recent years, but not all of it has been deserved. “A lot of it is from gross misapplication–people literally bathing their kids in it, for instance.”

Published: 6 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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