Preventative Measures Can Help Protect Against Mosquito Bites

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Mosquitoes are appearing earlier than normal this year. Take precautions to prevent mosquito bites on you and your pets.

asian tiger mosquito

Image credit: James Gathany, CDC – This media comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Public Health Image Library (PHIL), with identification number #2165.

Mosquitoes breed in standing water. The recent rains we have had, coupled with the upcoming warm weather, may help mosquitoes get off to a strong start.

Across North Carolina, our most common mosquito species is the Asian tiger mosquito (ATM), Aedes albopictus, and populations begin to climb throughout the summer. This is a species that feeds during the daytime when we’re out working and/or playing (but it will feed “dawn to dusk”). Focus on source reduction which means “tip and toss”. The idea is to disrupt and (preferably) to eliminate the many breeding sites that often exist around our homes and are quite likely the result of our own activities (or inactivity).

The Asian tiger mosquito is opportunistic; it feeds on several species of animals in addition to humans. It tends to bite humans below the waist and around the ankles, an area that is often overlooked when applying repellents.

Many people think that mosquito control means spraying pesticides outdoors. Because some mosquito species can fly far from breeding sites, efforts by individuals to control mosquitoes on their property rarely succeed. While pesticides are a valuable tool when used properly, we can actually have far greater and long-term impact on mosquito populations before we spray anything if we use an integrated mosquito management approach.

Some personal protection from mosquitoes, chiggers and ticks can be achieved through the use of insect repellents. Many of these products contain DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide). Select the desired formulation (e.g., lotion, aerosol spray or cream) containing the highest percent of active ingredient, as stated on the product label, and apply it to exposed skin. Repeated use of repellents over a short period of time is not recommended, especially for pregnant women and children. DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) is generally recognized as the most effective active ingredient in repellents.

Picaridin, also known as KBR 3023, is an ingredient found in many mosquito repellents used in Europe, Australia, Latin America and Asia for some time. Evidence indicates that it works very well, often comparable with DEET products of similar concentration.

Oil of lemon eucalyptus (also known as p-menthane 3,8-diol or PMD) is a plant-based mosquito repellent that provided protection time similar to low concentration DEET products in two recent studies. According to the label, oil of lemon eucalyptus products should NOT be used on CHILDREN UNDER 3 YEARS OLD. The Center for Disease Control’s recommendation refers only to EPA-registered repellents containing the active ingredient oil of lemon eucalyptus (PMD). “Pure” oil of lemon eucalyptus (e.g. essential oil) has not received similar, validated testing for safety and efficacy nor is it registered with EPA as an insect repellent. Therefore, use of only the essential oil is not included in the CDC’s recommendation.

IR3535, (3-[N-Butyl-N-acetyl]-aminopropionic acid, ethyl ester) is a naturally-occuring chemical that is used against mosquitoes, lice and biting flies. It has been used in Europe for over 20 years. You can take the following measures to minimize the chances of getting bitten this summer:

  • Use Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellents.
  • Drain any standing water as these are potential breeding mosquito breeding sites. This includes bird baths, and any other items with water-holding capacity like old tires or trash.
  • Fill in holes, depressions and puddles in yards.
  • Keep gutters in proper working order.
  • Make sure door and window screens are in good repair.
  • Stay indoors between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Wear pants and long-sleeve shirts when outdoors.

For more information on how to recognize and protect yourself from these pests, take a look at

https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/insect-repellent-products

Minda Daughtry is Horticulture Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.