The recent warm, humid weather, with scattered afternoon and evening thunderstorms in the D.C. area, makes conditions ideal for mosquitoes. The biters are out with a vengeance. But eliminating mosquito breeding sites, using repellants and taking other steps can help keep mosquitoes at bay.
“Following the very warm temperatures and the sporadic rainfall, we’ve produced perfect conditions for breeding mosquitoes. Those mosquitoes are generating a new crop of mosquitoes about on a weekly basis outside now with temperatures up in the 90s,” said Michael Raupp, professor emeritus at the University of Maryland.
Mosquitoes native to the Mid-Atlantic states, Culex pipiens, bite at dawn and dusk, unlike the invasive species Asian Tigers.
“This one is dreaded here in the DMV because this one is a day-biter. So when you’re out there working in the lawn or garden … during the height of daytime, in the bright sunlight the Asian Tigers are going to hunt you down,” Raupp said.
The best defense is to deny the mosquitoes standing water to breed.
“Any place there’s standing water for … a week or 10 days are potential breeding sites for these mosquitoes. That means empty that bird bath at least twice a week; turn over the wheelbarrow so it’s not collecting water,” Raupp said.
Raupp, known as “The Bug Guy,” also recommends repellants that contain Deet, but he cautions that label directions should be carefully followed — using the repellant only on exposed skin and the outside of clothing, never beneath clothing where it might be absorbed into the body.
And Raupp said parents should always supervise children in applying Deet.
“Really the gold-standard of mosquito repellants is Deet … and one of my favorites is botanically-based, this is oil of lemon eucalyptus. This is going to give me about 4 to 5 hours of protection when I’m working in the yard,” Raupp said.
Bug zappers don’t work, but citronella candles do.
Raupp explained that mosquitoes, unlike some other insects, are not drawn to light, like the electrified illumination of bug zappers.
“More than 90% of the insects being attracted and killed by bug zappers are either beneficial insects or simply harmless insects, less than 1% of insects killed by bug zappers are actually biters of human beings,” Raupp said.
Grocery, pharmacy and department store shelves are typically stocked this time of year with a selection of citronella candles.
“Citronella has been shown to give some level of protection, not nearly as good as some of the personal protective items,” Raupp said.
To keep mosquitoes away from you and your guests. especially in the evening, Raupp recommends using a box fan or oscillating fan.
“It’s going to create a nice gentle breeze and, guess what, mosquitoes are not strong fliers, so if you can generate a breeze on your patio, it’s going to help reduce any annoyance caused by mosquitoes … and in this hot weather, it’s going to be wonderful to help people cool off and stay a little bit more comfortable,” Raupp said.