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Time to bolster defenses against bugs

Monday - 4/9/2012, 5:56am  ET

larvae
This photo shows mosquito larvae in standing water. (Courtesy Mike Raupp)

Max Smith, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - The most dreaded part of the summer is on the horizon: a mosquito onslaught. And in preparation for their inevitable visit, here are some helpful hints on how to avoid being bit.

Exposed skin will attract mosquitoes, so long sleeves and pants can keep them at bay. However, warm weather and humidity might make such clothing uncomfortable, so chemical sprays also are helpful.

"The gold standard of mosquito repellents of course is DEET, and if I'm going into the rain forest, where bite counts are 200 per hour, I'm wearing insect repellent clothing. I'm using DEET," University of Maryland entomologist Mike Raupp says.

For those just going out in the backyard for a few hours, Raupp recommends using lemon eucalyptus oil.

"This is a nice organic material that's going to give me four hours of protection. That's all I need," says Raupp.

For an evening outside, consider putting out fans.

"Citronella candles have been shown to be somewhat repellent (but) they're not the perfect protection," Raupp says. "I will set up a couple large floor fans or oscillating fans. If you can create a breeze of about 4 miles per hour, the mosquitoes simply can't fly in that breeze."

This will greatly reduce the bites to your guests and ... it's going to cool them off on a nice hot summer evening."

Raupp says he didn't have much luck when he tried a clip-on mosquito repellent. Some products and remedies just don't really produce results, he says, like using garlic spray on plants.

"It does make that shrubbery smell delightful," Raupp says. "But really there's no scientific evidence that that's going to reduce the number of bites or scare these mosquitoes away."

Raupp says the warm weather has allowed for mosquitoes to start reproducing earlier than in cooler years. The biting bugs breed in standing water, so eliminating that from around the home will cut back on their presence.

Raupp says a new generation of mosquitoes can be born every seven to 10 days.

"The Asian Tiger can breed in a bottle cap, so you need to dump out the wheelbarrow," Raupp says. "Dump the birdbaths twice a week. Climb up there, unplug those gutters."

Raupp also has some tips for getting rid of ants inside of the house.

"Clean up all the spills. If you have pet bowls, put those things away at nighttime. Remove the sources of food the ants are after," he says.

Raupp also says to track the trail of ants to where they enter and leave the home. Place ant bait on both sides of the opening.

"The kind of ant bait I like is a gel. I put it on a little card," Raupp says.

The ants eat the bait and bring it back to the colony, poisoning the group after about a week.

A good way to get rid of ants in the actual trail is to spray them with a household cleaner.

"I simply squirt those ants, and this eliminates not only the ants, but also their pheromone trail -- the chemical trail that they use to find the food," Raupp says.

When it comes to ant hills in the yard, Raupp says the best way to get rid of them is to improve the quality of the lawn. If the grass is dense, the soil won't be as sandy, which is less ideal for ants.

Another option is to consider switching to flower beds.

Raupp also says that fire ants may become a concern in the coming years -- making anti-ant defense even more important.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)



Tags: mosquitosbugsbug sprayantsinsectssummer