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

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. 

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.

Continue reading

An easy disguise to outsmart greedy mosquitoes

Ever wonder how mosquitoes seemingly appear out of nowhere to ruin your fun? How do they find you so quickly? It’s all owed to a highly tuned sensory system which targets the next source of blood to fuel the next batch of eggs. Find out how keen their senses are in this explanation of How Mosquitoes Find You.

If only there was a magical coating to cloak you from these marauding blood-suckers – an invisibility cape that took just seconds to put on and followed you everywhere. Would you wear it? Well, you’re in luck. Find out how to harness the Power of Invisibility in the fight against mosquitoes.

For more information on keeping mosquitoes out of your backyard, check out how to Mosquito-Proof Your Patio or thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov/mosquitoinfo

To report a mosquito problem, contact the Environmental Services Department at enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov or 281-210-3800. 

How to reduce your chances of West Nile Virus

Pools are open and grills are going, but are you cooking up a breeding ground for mosquitoes? Make your yard a mosquito-free zone: clear roof gutters of debris; drill holes in the bottom of yard debris containers ; clean pet water dishes and bird baths at least once a week; check and empty children’s toys; repair leaky outdoor faucets. 

Why is this important? 

The Woodlands Township Mosquito Surveillance & Education program recorded the first positive sample for West Nile virus in Panther Creek earlier this month. South Montgomery County Mosquito Abatement responded by spraying about a square-mile area. Take a minute to access this map and input your address to see which zone you live in. Residents of Creekside Park can check the Harris County Treatment Map.

This is a normal time of year to see the start of disease activity in local mosquitoes, and serves as a reminder to do a check of your property for items holding water and protect yourself when outdoors.  

The American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA) recommends people follow the three D’s to keep mosquitoes away:  

  • Drain: Empty out water containers at least once per week  
  • Dress: Wear long sleeves, long pants, and light-colored, loose-fitting clothing  
  • Defend: Properly apply an approved repellent such as DEET, picaridin, IR 3535 or oil of lemon-eucalyptus 

Joseph Conlon, AMCA Technical Advisor, says, “Encouraging your neighbors to also eliminate sources on their own property is critical to a community-wide control program. Mosquitoes require water to complete their life cycle. If their water source is eliminated, so are their offspring.”  

He further states, “we must be prepared to prevent their spread throughout our public health landscape – and this requires safe, effective, sustained mosquito control and awareness in the community.”  

So take a moment to check these simple ways to mosquito-proof your patio and make your next grilling session much more pleasant. Are your neighbors aware it’s just that easy? Share with them and increase the mosquito-free zone around your house even more. Collectively you can make a difference to Fight the Bite and reduce the risk of mosquito-borne diseases, like West Nile Virus. 

Increase your awareness with more mosquito-proofing tips or contact us at enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov.