Behold, the power of invisibility

There are two ways to guarantee that mosquitoes won’t bite you. 

  1. Get a shield 
  2. Go incognito 

Let’s start with number 2 first. What if I told you that there is a magical coating that cloaks you from marauding hordes of blood-sucking mosquitoes, no matter where you go? An invisibility cape that takes about 20 seconds to put on. Would you wear it?  Like standing upwind of a deer hides your location, wearing repellent has a similar effect when mosquitoes try to track down their next target, as explained here in How mosquitoes find you.  

The biggest problem with the efficacy of repellent is that people don’t wear it. If you are complaining about mosquitoes and not wearing repellent, you may as well criticize the government but not exercise your right to vote.

Here are the top 3 reasons people give for not wearing mosquito repellent:

It stinks

Certainly some repellents are more heavily scented than others (we’re looking at you DEET), but two have almost no smell at all. Look at the front of the bottle and go for one that contains picaridin or IR3535 (also sometimes listed by its chemical name, ethyl N-acetyl-N-butyl-ß-alaninate). If odor is your issue, these are the two you want.

It doesn’t work

There are people at universities that make a living studying the effectiveness of mosquito repellents. One thing they can agree on is that there are 4 effective active ingredients. 

Have you tried each of these? Not everyone will find the same one the most effective. Keep trying until one works for you; it might not be the same one that works for your friends.  Also, note the percentage of active ingredient. It tells you how much of every spray is actual cloaking juice. The more active ingredient, the longer it will repel before you need to reapply. If you’re out where ticks are also abundant, choose one that is effective for both and more highly concentrated. 

Active IngredientPicaridinIR3535Oil of Lemon EucalyptusDEET
% Ingredient15 to 20%15 to 20 %30 to 40%10 to 30%
Fights AgainstMosquitoesMosquitoes and TicksMosquitoesMosquitoes and Ticks
Age Restrictions> 2 months> 2 months> 3 years> 2 months
Derived FromSynthetic version of piperine, found in group of plants that produce black peppercornsStructurally similar to the natural substance β-alanine – a component of pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)Derived from lemon eucalyptus tree branches and leaves or a synthetic version of the same (PMD)Synthetic repellent invented by the US Army for use by military personnel in insect-infested areas
Also Listed AsIcaridin, KBR 3023ethyl N-acetyl-N-butyl-ß-alaninatePara-methane-diol or PMDN, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide
Additional InformationNPIC Fact SheetNPIC Fact SheetNPIC Fact SheetNPIC Fact Sheet

I don’t want to bathe in chemicals

Does anyone want to expose themselves to harmful substances? Of course not. Rest assured that repellents are approved through the EPA and safe for use – read the label. If you use fabric softener, you are exposing yourself to more unknown chemicals formulations than you would be with repellent. Some people are sensitive to DEET and can develop a rash. If the concern is to find a more “natural” mosquito repellent, then check out oil of lemon eucalyptus. It’s derived from an actual lemon eucalyptus tree, but standardized so that the same amount of active ingredient is in each batch. See this previous post for guidelines on using repellents safely.  

Back to Number 1

When weighing all the options to reduce the likelihood of mosquito bites, and thus the risk of mosquito-borne disease, nothing beats an impenetrable shield. Anything that physically separates those piercing, sucking mouthparts from your skin provides the ultimate protection. This usually begins in the form of clothing with a tight weave that hangs loosely, away from the body. 

Bug nets around strollers are the best protection for babies before they’re old enough (see chart above) to wear repellent. Bug jackets are available for adults too – and depending on your situation you might consider it! When treating post-Harvey floodwaters for mosquito larvae, Township staff used these to protect against the swarms of floodwater mosquitoes.  

Fighting off mosquitoes starts by protecting yourself but remember that you can also fight back by treating and removing common breeding places around the home. By protecting yourself with these two simple steps above, you can once again comfortably enjoy your time outside. Just remember that you are only invisible to the mosquitoes, the rest of the world can still see you! 

Questions, comments or to report a mosquito concern, email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov or call 281-210-3800

Positive West Nile Virus Samples Increasing

Data from The Woodlands Township Mosquito Surveillance Program indicates a strong start to disease activity this summer with 30% of monitored zones returning a mosquito sample positive for West Nile virus (WNV). Typically, mid-July to mid-August is the peak of WNV activity but the unusually high temperatures have contributed to an earlier start to peak season.  

The Township partners with county agencies to respond to disease activity. Access the Mosquito Treatment Activity Map for South Montgomery County here and for Harris County here to find out if and when your area has been scheduled for spraying. Montgomery County Precinct 4 conducts additional operations which includes Harper’s Landing, their map is accessed here. Residents of Alden Bridge and College Park west of I-45 can learn of additional operations in Precinct 2 by calling that office at 281-259-6492. 

Environmental Services staff search out and treat sites where mosquitoes are breeding. A major culprit – your nearby storm drain. When lawns are over-watered or sprinklers misaligned, the resulting runoff funnels into the storm drains, creating, you guessed it, a perfect mosquito breeding habitat. Irrigate correctly (no more than an inch a week for optimum turf grass health) and you can stop mosquitoes at the source. Then take just a few more steps to make life outdoors safer and lot more bearable: 

  • Tip out toys and garden equipment after rain 
  • Clean out gutters 
  • Rinse out birdbaths once a week 
  • Treat meter boxes that hold water with Bti Mosquito Dunks® 

Non-toxic Bti Mosquito Dunks® are the best way to treat areas where water stands for more than five days. Cheap, easy, and safe for pets and wildlife, you can find them at your local hardware store.  

Personal Protective Measures 

  1. Everyone is advised to wear repellent when outdoors and when West Nile virus is known to be circulating. This is especially important when someone: 
  • Is over age 50 
  • Is outside in the early morning or evening hours when mosquitoes are most active 
  • Has underlying health conditions 

There are special considerations for children – see this Parents Guide to Repellent.  

  1. The mosquitoes that carry WNV are more active during early dawn and dusk hours. Consider changing your routine if you’re normally outdoors during these times or create a barrier with long, loose sleeves and pants. 

More Tools to Mosquito-Proof Your Patio 

Check out why an oscillating fan works well and why we recommend garlic barrier, just two of the suggestions in the Mosquito-Proof Your Patio series. Use this handy guide to check your yard for other places mosquitoes might be lurking.  

To report a problem area or to request more information, contact the Environmental Services Department at enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov or call 281-210-2058.  

Are you a mosquito magnet?

They seem to come out of nowhere. They find you when you’re gardening, walking the dog, checking the mail – with no respect for personal space. It’s pretty annoying how good they are at sneaking up on us. But why are they so good at finding us? 

Keen senses

Mosquitoes use a highly tuned sensory system to zero in on their next blood meal. From as far as 200 feet, mosquitoes can sense the carbon dioxide we exhale and are pulled closer to the source in hopes of a quick bite.

Once the carbon dioxide has drawn her (only females bite) within sight, she is further attracted by dark colors and high-contrast patterns. So remember to choose long, loose, light-colored clothing with a tight weave as a good first defense against female mosquitos. She seeks a blood meal, not to feed herself, but in pursuit of protein to make eggs.   

Did you know?

Mosquitos drink plant nectar to fuel their bodies and pollinate plants in the process.

Getting warmer

When within three feet the mosquito can sense your heat signature, differentiating you from say, a park bench. Investigating further, she hones in on a specific area to land using “smells” she picks up through her antennae. Lactic acid, uric acid, and ammonia in sweat, as well as the scent of fabric softeners, perfumes and colognes can all attract mosquitoes.  

Cloaking spray

Mosquito repellants fight the bite two ways. One is to jam chemical signals from reaching a mosquito’s antennae. The other is to be offensive to the mosquito once she lands and can “taste” it with her feet.  Repellents may use one or both approaches – termed primary and secondary repellency.  

As we each have a unique chemical signature, try a few repellents to find the one that’s most effective for you. Look on the front of the bottle to find one of the active ingredients the CDC recommends: Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, DEET, or IR3535. What works best for you might be different from your partner or kids

Sensory trickery

The Mosquito Surveillance & Education Program of The Woodlands Township uses the mosquito’s keen sensory perception to our advantage. We use a variety of lures and baits to attract mosquitoes into traps for weekly monitoring throughout the Township. For example, the Biogents Sentinel trap uses a lure that smells a lot like stinky gym socks. It also has a high-contrast color pattern and can be made more appealing by the addition of dry ice to emit carbon dioxide. These three features mimic a human host, drawing the mosquitoes close enough to be sucked into a net by a battery-powered fan. The captured mosquitoes are collected the next morning and sent to a laboratory for identification and disease testing. Tracking changes in the number of mosquitoes caught, species present, and disease trends over time provides the foundation for mosquito control activities in The Woodlands.

Learn more about mosquitoes and how to reduce the risk of mosquito-borne disease at http://www.thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov/MosquitoInfo. To report a mosquito concern email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov or call 281-210-3800. 

Monitoring Mosquito-Borne Disease in The Woodlands

The buzzing has begun! As summer approaches, the Environmental Services department would like to remind you that “mosquito season” is here. May is when the Texas Department of State Health Services begins testing mosquito samples for disease.

The Environmental Services (ES) Mosquito Team is out setting traps that target the vectors for West Nile virus (WNv).  The last two years, we’ve experienced high WNv disease activity in The Woodlands. In 2020, 12% of mosquito samples tested positive for the disease and 8% in 2021.

To prevent the spread of mosquitos (and mosquito-borne illnesses) – the ES Mosquito Team reminds residents to take a moment every week to empty containers holding water and scrub out birdbaths. Some of the most common mosquito breeding sites found around the yard are – plant saucers, toys, wheelbarrows, buckets, and birdbaths. Follow these simple guidelines and reduce the buzzing in your backyard!

IMG_1526

If you are having a problem with mosquitos and cannot locate the source, please call Environmental Services at 281-210-2058. For more information on mosquito-proofing your yard check out this two-part series.

Tell Mosquitoes to Bug Off…

BUG OFF- USING MOSQUITO REPELLENT

Recent rains and warm temperatures have produced a bumper crop of flood plain mosquitoes. Fortunately, these annoying biters are just that, annoying; they don’t carry disease. Unfortunately, The Woodlands has other species that do. So, before you head outdoors, especially at dawn and dusk, reach for a repellent that keeps the biters at bay.

There are nearly 50 species of mosquitoes in The Woodlands and likely as many choices of repellent. Make it easy on yourself, choose one that contains one of the four, EPA approved active ingredients: DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, and oil of lemon eucalyptus. EPA makes it even easier to find a repellent that meets your specific needs with their online search tool.

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