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Zika Virus; simple ways to prevent mosquito attack

Our community efforts to combating Zika spread

Photo of Anietie Akpan
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There are about 3,500 species of mosquitoes in the world, which differ in their

persistence; biting habits and ability transmit disease.

Protecting yourself from mosquito bite not only prevent horrid itching but can also lessen your chances of contracting several mosquito-borne illnesses, such as encephalitis, yellow fever, malaria and viruses. Other are West Nile and Zika viruses.

Our main focus is on preventing and controlling Zika virus. But it’s better to how mosquitoes attack us. Mosquitoes are always thirsty for blood. There are attracted to us for blood because it contains and iron to produce their eggs.

The males are not interested in our blood.

Mosquitoes are attracted to a number of chemical; compound that they can detect from an impressive 50 yards away.

Scientifically, female mosquitoes are attracted to the following;

Bacterial: One trillion microbes live in our skin and create body odor. Although humans have only 10% of this microbes in common, but the rest vary between individuals. Some of us have a group of microbes that are particularly irresistible to mosquitoes.

Chemical compound: According to 2000 study, 277 chemical compounds were discovered as potential mosquito attractants from human hand odor alone. Some of their favorites are lactic acid, ammonia, carboxylic acid and actenol (which are found in human breath and sweat). Mosquitoes are especially drawn to carbon dioxide we exhale. The more we exhale it, the more attractive we are to them. Adults naturally emit more of carbon dioxide than children, which is one of the reason larger people seem to be bitten more often than smaller people.

Movement and heat; Mosquitoes are drawn to both movement and heat. So, if we are exercising outside on a warm summer or dry season evening we are prone to mosquito attack.

Having known how mosquitoes spread Zika virus, let’s understand how the virus can be prevented and controlled.

The aedes aegypti (Aedes aegypti is a small, dark mosquito with white markings and banded legs) mosquitoes generally carry the Zika virus from an infected person to a non-infected person. We are free to apply several chemical and non-chemical strategies to reduce their chance of being bitten.

Microcephaly is a rare birth defect where a baby is born with a head and brain smaller than normal size. The health organizations are planning more studies to learn more about the risks of Zika virus infection during pregnancy.

Health authorities including the WHO, PAHO, CDC and ECDC are warning pregnant women to avoid traveling to areas where there is a Zika virus outbreak. They also advise pregnant women who live in the areas where the outbreak is occurring to be extra careful to protect themselves from mosquito bites.

The good news is there are more than a handful of ways to fight back against the forces of mosquito attack with natural solutions. We’ve rounded them up, and even found a useful one you can make at home with the same ingredients you might use to make a loaf of bread. They are cost effective and very simply to apply.

1. Draining & Water Feature Churning
Simply walking around your home or property and overturning patio chairs, buckets, wheelbarrows, and other places the rain has puddled will remove dozens of places for mosquito larvae to thrive. Stopped up plant saucers or pet dishes are not too small of a location either. Likewise, scrubbing out and changing the water in birdbaths weekly and using a pump to move water in man-made ponds or other still water features in your yard will interrupt the pests’ life cycle. Also, adding fish to ponds or pools will add a layer of protection, as they will gladly gobble up any mosquito larvae floating in their habitat. Another spot people don’t consider are gutters; Remove debris and maintain the flow of water to eliminate their use as a nest.

2. Create a Slippery Landing Site
Since mosquitoes have to land from time to time (just like many other insects), creating a slippery, unnatural feeling place to do so will force the pest population to seek a different spot. All you have to do is mix natural liquid dish soap with water in a 1 to 3 ratio and use it through a hose-attached spray feeder. Then just spray it all over your lawns, lesser used fields, larger bushes and trees. This simple tactic is safe for twice-weekly use, but we don’t recommend it for fields where livestock are being kept. Though this may deter bugs that you want around such as butter- or dragonflies, it will cut back on the mosquito population.

3. Screening
For larger bodies of water that you don’t need immediate access to, using super fine or mesh screening is effective at keeping female mosquitoes out and eggs from being laid. This method is great for gutters, open air water tanks, or rain catching barrels.

4. Air Curtains & Misters
Businesses within the food industry have been using air curtain systems in their entry ways since they were developed in 1916. Not only are they mostly inconspicuous, but air curtains are incredibly effective at keeping flying buggers out of buildings. The smaller units for residential zones are as easy to install. Make sure you get one that has adjustable vents and keep your air blowing at a 20 degree angle for maximum mosquito protection.


Another alternative to keep mosquitoes away from your home and garden is with the vary element they need to lay eggs. By putting excessive moisture in the air, you make it difficult for mosquitoes to fly. If they can’t fly, they can’t find places to lay eggs or eat nectar. Misters systems are a little more complex to install than air curtains and you will need to be aware of any pooling from them. But if your goal is to keep the bugs away from gathering places or out of your buildings, they are a viable option.

5. Dunks
Donut-shaped dunks are a great option for large pools of water you can’t easily screen in or that need to stay open. These tablets are pressed organic material infused with spores called bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). These spores are naturally in our environment, and have ability to repel different insects. Bt Israelenses is exclusively toxic to mosquitoes, and won’t harm animals, children, or other wildlife. Water storage tanks or livestock watering troughs are great places to use them. Once dunks are dropped into water, the Bt releases. The mosquito larvae munch on it and die within 24 hours.

6. Essential Oil Repellents
A natural alternative to sprays and lotions claiming to keep mosquitoes away are essential oils. Concentrated lemongrass, cinnamon, tea tree, geraniol or cedar oils are all effective at warding off these buzzing pests. Lemongrass is the active ingredient in most citronella candles or bug sprays. Infusing these oils in areas you want to deter mosquitoes can work, but for larger areas you may need to have several working. You can also dilute any of the above oils and rub or spray on skin, clothes before you go to bed.

7. Magnet Traps
Magnet traps are clever contraptions that convert propane into CO2 in order to lure mosquitoes close enough to vacuum them up to their death. The concentration of CO2 is so appealing to them that one machine can maintain over an acre of land. It takes a little longer than the other solutions above, 4-6 weeks, but then the enemies numbers are greatly reduced and stay gone. Commercial machines cost around $600 plus the cost of propane.

A cheaper option is to make your own mosquito magnet trap. These require no propane, just some staple pantry items and a 2-liter bottle. The brown sugar offers the sweetness mosquitoes smell on our skin while the yeast releases CO2. Studies show that mosquitoes are also often drawn to darker colors, so wrapping the trap in black construction paper further appeals to them. This combination hordes them to the opening, and once they get in, it’s impossible to get out. Make several of these and place them around your property away from areas where people or pets gather. These can be as effective as the expensive commercial option above.


You’ll Need:

1 2-liter bottle

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 tsp. active yeast

1 cup warm water

Black construction paper

Scissors

Tape

Directions:

Remove bottle lid and cut the bottle in half short-ways.

Mix sugar with warm water, stir to dissolve and let cool.

Place sugar-water in the bottom half of the bottle.

Sprinkle yeast into sugar water mixture.

Place the top half of bottle upside down into the bottom half and tape together.

Wrap the outside of the trap in black construction paper and tape to secure.

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Photo of Deborah Nyambu

Thanks for sharing, Aniete Akpan, very informative...

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