We’re all doing our best to social distance these days. If only mosquitoes self-quarantined, too. Fortunately, out of the 44 species of mosquitoes in The Woodlands, only one one threatens to pack more than an itch with its bite – West Nile virus. Here’s what you need to know about preventing annoying bites and potentially much worse.
AVOID PEAK TIMES
You might feel like the main course at times, but the southern house mosquito (Culex quinquefasciatus) – the primary vector for West Nile virus – would rather feast on birds than people. That’s why they’re most active at dawn and dusk, when birds are roosting. However, if you’re active then, too, you’ve put yourself on the menu.
Consider changing your routine to avoid harm’s way. Could you:
- Walk the dog before dinner instead of after dark?
- Go for a run after the sun has risen?
- Take a tee time between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.?
Putting it in action: Marissa likes walking her dog in the morning when the air is as cooler. With the increase in WNV activity though, she’s started answering emails until 9 a.m. and then hits the trail. Sure, it’s a little sweatier but the peace of mind is worth it.
If you do find yourself watering plants at dusk or enjoying a sunrise coffee on the patio, here are some tools to fight the bite.
A Big Oscillating Fan
A fan that blows air horizontally creates an air current too stiff for mosquitoes to handle – their flight speed maxes out at 2 miles per hour (a gentle breeze is about 10 mph). The wider the fan oscillates, the greater the area you can keep mosquito-free. Overhead fans are nice, but not as effective. Pro tip: add a second fan for more complete coverage and refreshment.
Best application: when you’re outdoors in one spot. Think grilling, reading, or lounging, on a blanket with the kids.
Putting it into action: neighbors Neil and Susan read how to Mosquito-Proof the Patio and liked the simple solution of an oscillating fan for their grilling competition. Susan had a fan in the garage that would fit the bill, just needed an extension cord. Neil decided to augment his overhead fan with a floor fan. Now let the competition begin!
It can’t be said enough – wear repellent! Now is the time to make it a regular part of your outdoor routine. Think they all stink, are full of chemicals, or just plain don’t work? We explore these three common reasons and offer some myth-busters to help you find the repellent that works for you. For those with wee ones see this Parents Guide to Repellent.
Best application: anytime you’re out and moving – especially during peak times. Think watering the veggies in the evening, walking the dog before a 7 a.m. Zoom meeting or picnicking in the park for dinner.
Bonus points: wear a light-colored, long-sleeve shirt or long pants (or both!) to cut down on your exposure to bites – and reduce the amount of repellent you need.
Putting it into action: Sebastian likes to work off the day’s stress at the park before dinner – but he’s noticed this is a peak time for mosquitoes. After some trial and error, he found that IR3535 works best for him. It isn’t greasy and has no odor. Now he makes sure to keep a bottle in his car so its right there when he needs it.
The options are endless – what three things can you do today to reduce your chance of being bitten? Here are some ideas:
- Leave a can of repellent by my front door to use before walks
- Try a new repellent, one with a different active ingredient that might work better for me: try oil of lemon eucalyptus which has a citrusy scent or IR3535 that doesn’t small at all
- Wear a long-sleeve shirt when I garden
- Wear long pants when I go for a walk
- Move the floor fan from the spare room to the patio
- Water the garden with a sprinkler on a timer instead of standing there with the hose
- Change up the timing of my dog walk
The best protection against West Nile virus is to avoid mosquito bites. To make sure you aren’t breeding your own mosquitoes, find a handy checklist and other good resources at www.thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov/MosquitoInfo.