It was bound to happen: The American Mosquito Control Association must have gotten fed up with the endless lousy press mosquitoes have received over time, so they added a Fun Facts page to their website.
Mosquitoes and fun? As the Robot in the film “Lost in Space” and the characters in the “Star Wars” franchise agree: “This does not compute.”
When did the ongoing battle between man and mosquito begin? Millions of years ago. And while Noah only loaded two on the ark, there are currently between 2,700 and 3,500 species flitting about, according to Nature.com. The good news is that only a few hundred of the 3,500 types stalk humans. The bad news? A couple of hundred of the 3,500 types stalk humans.
But you’re interested in knowing how and why mosquitoes decide to settle on you when the urge to snack hits–and we are here to educate campers, so close encounters of the itchy kind are avoided.
Let’s begin by acknowledging that these insects are focused: A salt marsh mosquito will travel up to 40 miles on a food quest, at which point every human becomes a “fare” game. Need an excuse to lose weight? Mosquitoes love overweight people most of all because weight gain alters body chemistry.
Excess weight isn’t the only factor that invites mosquitoes: they are attracted to dark-colored clothing and find smelly feet irresistible, so if you’re having trouble getting the kids to wash theirs, share this tidbit—especially if you’ve got youngsters who see showers as a punishment.
Oh, and no canoodling by the campfire after the kids hit the sack if the moon is full. This may sound like the most romantic idea ever, but during full moons, mosquito activity increases by 500 percent. Looks like you’ll have to decide which itch to scratch.
A doctor named Sir Ronald Ross became fixated with mosquitoes when took a post-doc class in bacteriology that convinced him his future lay in tropical medicine. Packing his family off to India in 1892, his pioneering work on mosquito transmission of malaria ushered in a new way of thinking about the topic on August 20, 1897. Given the Nobel Prize in 1902, Ross remains the undisputed expert on all things related to airborne mosquito disease transmission.
But Anopheles mosquitoes guilty of infecting humans and causing malaria are by no means the only strain people—particularly outdoorsmen—must worry about. According to the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC), Dengue Fever, West Nile Virus, Chikungunya, and the Zika virus all present severe health threats to campers who don’t take proper precautions.
Do you live—-or intend to camp—-in a geographic area that’s become Mosquito Mecca? You don’t have to stay home, but you do have to learn about areas plagued by mosquito infestations so you can protect yourself adequately. Bookmark these websites and use them to plan your upcoming camping trips:
- West Nile
About mosquito breeding grounds
It’s been 20+ years since journalist Kathleen Cannon wrote: “Where Mosquitoes and Tires Breed.” While her quirky headline stopped “New York Times” readers mid-page, her thesis emphasized the importance of understanding that stagnant ponds, mangrove swamps, and lakes aren’t the only areas requiring caution.
Some mosquito species prefer dry nesting areas. Others favor hollowed-out trees. But it’s water collection points within junkyards and dumps that have the potential to host the most significant numbers of these pests. Since mosquitoes can travel distances, these venues don’t have to be located next to a campground to spell trouble.
Cannon’s investigation concluded that in New Jersey alone, 15 million tires found at 24 disparate locations became breeding havens for West Nile virus-carrying mosquitoes. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, this is no local problem.
Around three billion tires offer hospitality to breeding mosquitoes across the U.S., and 240 million more are added annually. With state and federal monies drying up for clean-up efforts, the future isn’t looking rosy for humans eager to escape bites when they go on camping expeditions.
Time to make friends
Nature.com isn’t the only resource on the Internet stating that mosquitoes have been around “for more than 100 million years.” Depending on your belief system, they could pre-date man. Mosquitoes have survived parched earth and ice ages, so perhaps it’s time to surrender and acknowledge their superiority.
That doesn’t mean you have to like them. Fearing them is a saner way to deal with mosquitoes because some species have the power to kill. This topic presents many teachable moments for your kids. Share it with them, so they come to love the outdoors and feel as safe in camping environments as you do.
The War Against Mosquitoes: 20 ways to keep them away!
How to keep mosquitoes away while camping? We’ve collected remedies and methods, some of which have been around since your grandparents, while others are courtesy of folks to think outside the repellent. Read this list twice if you’re a frequent target. Memorize it if mosquitoes seem to have your number on speed dial.
- Those smelly feet mentioned earlier? Wash them often while camping, even if it’s a pain in the neck to do so.
- Apply EPA-approved repellents to exposed skin and areas beneath clothing as extra insurance since this is how to keep mosquitoes away while camping, according to plenty of veteran outdoor families.
- If commercial repellents scare you, apply geranium oil or citronella to the skin for an organic option.
- Load up on garlic the week before your camping expedition. Tote garlic-scented products (available at garden retailers). Neither will help your love life, but the sulfur compounds your pores omit tend to scare mosquitoes away.
- Re-spray after exercise—jogging, hiking, chopping wood, etc.) because when you’re active, you give off huge amounts of lactic acid and carbon dioxide, both mosquito aphrodisiacs.
- Hold the salt. Chemistry professor Anne Helmenstine says salt also triggers the production of lactic acid. She also recommends going easy on potassium-loaded foods, so leave the bananas at home and bring the burgers.
- Stick to white and light-colored clothing when you camp. Yes, you will come home with barbecue sauce stains, but if your wardrobe selections mean you return with no mosquito punctures, we promise not to call the fashion police.
- Pick a breezy spot to camp, or bring a battery-operated fan. Seriously. University of Florida mosquito expert Jonathan Day says mosquitoes can’t fly if wind speeds exceed one mph, so get those blades turning.
- Prepare to battle if you intend to consume the ice chest full of beer you’re bringing for your buddy trip. Drinking alcohol cranks up your metabolic rate. You might also bring a neon sign that says, “Bite me.”
- Sounds counter-intuitive, but if you wear clothing made of fabric with tightly woven fabrics, your chances of being victimized by mosquitoes can be cut dramatically.
- Don’t fool yourself into thinking that ultrasonic devices work. Spend the money on a branded or homemade insect repellent instead if you’re serious about how to keep mosquitoes away while camping.
- Make friends with DEET-laced repellents despite their lousy reputations. Learn the secret of applying DEET-based products: You’re not applying perfume, so use it as you would hand lotion: Squirt it on your palms and apply.
- Pack mosquito netting. Folks in tropical settings have been sleeping beneath it for centuries, and it won’t add to the weight of the provisions you bring along on your camping trip.
- Don’t believe everything you read. Dr. Immo Hansen of New Mexico State University jokes that he spends more time than he likes refuting rumors that Vitamin B1 skin patches repel mosquitoes. Add this to your urban myth list.
- Spray yourself with Victoria’s Secret popular-selling scent Bombshell, and you’ll repel mosquitoes and other bugs. Ladies: We have it on good authority that this won’t turn off guys obsessed with you.
- Stay home if you’re pregnant, says London dermatologist Dr. Anjali Mahto. Pregnant women emit carbon dioxide, and their resting body temperatures are high, attracting mosquitoes. Given the current Zika scare, it’s doubly important to be cautious.
- According to the Medical Daily, “Catnip (Nepetalactone) has been proven 10-times more effective than DEET.” If you can sneak your kitty’s stash into your gear bag and avoid claw marks, you’re a better cat parent than most!
- Have you tossed out dryer sheets after reading that they clog landfills? Put them to work instead: Stuff pockets with them, and mosquitoes will ignore you.
- Avon has been marketing “Skin So Soft” as a mosquito repellent for decades, and many believers swear by it.
- Clip a ThermaCELL to your belt. Filled with synthetic chrysanthemum agents, you’ll turn yourself into a mobile fogger, but refills give you a long-term bang for your buck.
The mosquitoes have been on earth long enough, and these pests won’t be extinct soon. Not only will they spoil your mood during the summer camp, but you will also be itching and swearing at them for a few days.
With these 20 techniques in place, most mosquitoes will remove you from their contact list. Share this knowledge with your friends or family so you guys will have an enjoyable summer adventure.