Dr Cameron Webb, Medical Entomologist at University of Sydney and NSW Health Pathology, takes what science has found about the breeding and biting behaviour of our local mosquitoes and tells you what you can do to protect your family this season. It’s important to protect yourself from mosquitoes not just to prevent annoying itchy bites, but to stop the spread of diseases that they can carry.
A topical insect repellent, especially one that contains diethyltoluamide (DEET) or picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus, will provide the longest lasting protection. Repellents containing plant extracts such as citronella or tea tree oil, will need to be applied far more frequently to protect against bites. When it comes to repellents, a dab “here and there” isn’t enough to stop the bites. Apply insect repellent as a thin covering on all exposed areas of skin for the most effective protection.
Mosquitoes seem to like dark colours, especial dark blue. If you’re planning a fishing trip or bushwalk, opt for paler colours, they won’t repel mosquitoes but perhaps a few less mozzies will chase you down.
Most mosquitoes will be looking for blood throughout the night but from late afternoon through until early evening is when you really need to protect your family.
You don’t need your plants to suffer when stopping mosquito breeding. Fill pot plant saucers with sand, it traps moisture but stops water sloshing about that mosquitoes would otherwise breed in.
There is nothing you can eat or drink to stop mosquito bites but studies have shown that drinking beer can make you more of a target for mosquitoes! Only problem is, giving up the grog won’t keep them away either.
Moving the air about will help hide you from mosquitoes. It will disrupt their flight and disperse the carbon dioxide you’re exhaling (that’s the key for mosquitoes to find someone to bite)
Electrocuting light traps don’t kill too many mosquitoes. Unlike moths and lots of other insects, mosquitoes aren’t attracted to light, they’ll stay away.
Some smartphone apps claim to repel mozzies with high frequency sounds but there is no evidence that sound will protect you from bites. Switch off those apps, you’re probably just annoying your friends!
Scientists have demonstrated that some mosquitoes are attracted to Limburger cheese. The cheese’s notoriously stinky aroma is caused by bacteria, coincidently a similar bacteria to that found between our toes! Opting for shoes rather than thongs may block access those bacterial aromas.
Tides flooding coastal wetlands and rain filling backyard containers will trigger a hatch of mosquito eggs. Mosquitoes will be out in force biting about ten days after “king tides” or major downpours of rain.
For more information about Australian mosquitoes and how best to keep your family safe from their bites, see Cameron Webb’s recent publication A Guide to the Mosquitoes of Australia.