Mosquito: the Insect Vampire

Oct 7, 2013 | mosquito control

Nothing is quite as irritating to the early evening outdoor barbeque as the elegant but bloodthirsty mosquito.  Elegant?  The mosquito is an impressive looking insect when studied in detail.  It is frail, harmless in appearance, but so attracted to mammalian blood, one would think it senses blood by radar.  It is actually an attraction of chemical odor and only female mosquitoes are so attracted.  Blood is not as much a food source, although some dietary benefit is derived, but rather, protein in blood is essential for egg development in females, which is why only they take blood.

The preference for some people over others is not yet fully known, but there are three major contributors, none of which are easily avoided without the use of a good repellant.  Apparently, females are attracted to perspiration for certain acids excreted by some people, but not others.  They are also attracted to movement, which often corresponds to perspiration.  Perhaps one remedy would be to relax before the barbeque instead of active work or play.  The third apparent attraction is carbon dioxide, the volume of which is a function of normal breathing.  However, once again, heavy activity causes a higher breathing rate and more carbon dioxide is exhaled as a result.

Pregnant women seem more attractive than not.  It is not known why other than pregnancy may cause a tendency for woman to exhale more frequently.  Mosquitoes are attracted to adults more than children.  All these factors are more likely to attract a mosquito to a target for that host’s blood than one who is relaxed, sitting still and breathing slowly, not pregnant and a child.  One other elegance displayed by the little lady bloodsucker is her incredible sense of attraction from a distance.  Some females can be attracted to their target and swoop in for the bite (actually, a puncture) from over 160 feet (50 meters) away.

If quiet, still, easy breathing does not deter the lady, there is still repellant, which is not always the most appetizing thought just before diving into a rack of ribs.  There are numerous commercial brands available, but some natural oils might be considered.  Chiefly among them is eucalyptus oil, an essential oil.  Also, cedar, citronella, lemongrass and peppermint oils have shown a short-term effect, but the effect of eucalyptus lasts much longer.

If repellant is repulsive just before a meal, mosquito traps set away from the barbeque area are effective.  Remember, the irritating ladies are attracted from over 100 feet away, so the traps can be set off a distance so that mosquitoes are not tempted to be diverted to barbeque guests.

A last concern with mosquito bites is that they not only withdraw blood and leave an itching bite wound, there is also an exchange of their saliva which can carry allergens, or worse, severe diseases such as yellow fever, malaria and the West Nile virus.  To avoid these concerns, it is best to eliminate their favored breeding environment: stagnant water.


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