Analysts from StopPestInfo, a website covering pest control issues, have examined media reports on mosquito-caused deaths since the beginning of the year. Based on the results of their research, the experts have found that a significant portion of the U.S. population is either unaware of many available methods to control mosquitoes or limits the efforts to using only personal protection sprays.
The experts warn that mosquito bites can pose a real threat to human health. These insects are carriers for certain diseases, including the deadly ones like West Nile virus, while malaria, dengue fever, and some other viruses are transmitted by these pests as well.
In February, the death of The Villages resident from West Nile virus was confirmed. The Villages is the place in Florida surrounded by marshes that are an environment where mosquitoes literary thrive. At present, it is not clear where the 74-year-old man contacted the disease carrier, something that only adds to the worries of local residents who are urged by officials to protect themselves better from mosquito bites.
In March, a study was published, according to which West Nile virus has become a “permanent part of Arizona’s ecosystem.” And the threat is said to be spreading to adjacent states. Scientists claim that the reason for that is the abundance of stagnant water in Arizona, such as fountains and uncared-for swimming pools — mosquitoes’ favorite breeding sites. This indicates that not only marchlands is the environment where disease-carrying mosquitoes thrive.
Comparing the Effectiveness of All Modern Mosquito Control Methods
According to StopPestInfo analysts, the only proven way to get rid of mosquitoes is to use chemicals. However, these insecticides are toxic to humans and pets, causing eye irritation, skin redness, labored breathing and allergic reactions in some cases. Mosquito repellents can be even more harmful to human health than the pests themselves. For this reason, combining the efficacy of electronic devices and potency of chemical insecticides has become one of the promising approaches to mosquito control. So in November 2018, the world’s first rechargeable electronic mosquito repellent was granted Popular Science’s Grand Award in the Recreation Category.
In order to clarify the picture, the experts have evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of the most common mosquito control methods both in terms of effectiveness and safety.
DEET and Picaridin
They have revealed that the most widespread method of personal protection against mosquitoes is using sprays and lotions containing chemical compounds such as DEET and Picaridin. The former is more potent but is known to dissolve plastics while the latter is odorless and is not greasy. Both solutions are applied directly to the skin, with a list of safety precautions indicated on the product’s label.
Still, despite the assurances that the normal use of DEET-based and similar products do not present a health concern, there are several studies showing the opposite. So researchers have revealed that DEET may block the normal breakdown of acetylcholine, the chemical needed for the nervous system to activate muscles. Other studies have shown that applying DEET may lead to seizures in children.
Trapping mosquitoes is one of the safest methods and a common tool used by scientists all over the world to monitor and sample these insects. Setting a large number of mosquito traps in different places, they manage to gather exhaustive information on the species inhabiting the area. Still, this method is considered to be the least effective when the objective is to reduce the mosquito population.
As scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison note, studies show that traps used by homeowners do not lead to the decreased number of mosquito bites. More importantly, trapping is counterproductive when it comes to personal mosquito protection. Instead of repelling the insects, traps are designed to attract them by means of various lures. For this reason, placing traps close to where people are located is not recommended.
The StopPestInfo experts claim that the second safest way of eliminating mosquitoes are bug zappers, which are electronic devices designed to attract insects by the UV light and kill them in an in-built electrical grid. However, researchers have revealed that these devices largely work against large-size insects like bugs, not mosquitoes.
Scientists from the University of Florida have found out that out of approximately 10,000 insects caught by a bug zapper, only 8 were biting insects. According to them, this is because mosquitoes are more attracted to the carbon dioxide associated with human breathing than to the UV light. Worse still, these devices tend to attract and kill the bulk of beneficial insects that are an integral part of a healthy garden ecosystem. By pollinating flowers and predating on pests, the species such as bees and butterflies have deserved the name “beneficial”.
Foggers are the devices spraying a mist into the air and designed to protect large areas from mosquitoes. Basically, they are intended for mosquito control in the backyard or garden, with shady areas and dense vegetation being the most recommended sites for fogging. The experts warn that while effectively covering large areas, foggers provide only a temporary relief lasting no more than 6 hours.
Scientists warn that both thermal and aerosol foggers can harm beneficial insects, which is why it is important to avoid fogging near plants where they are active. Since these devices atomize pesticides, they can pose health risks to humans as well. For this reason, only one fogger per 5,000 cubic feet should be used indoors. Besides, foggers must not be used near flammable substances as they are known to cause house fires. So a woman in New York, who did not turn off her oven’s pilot light, had the apartment wall blown out by a powerful explosion after a fogger was used.
One of the highly recommended solutions is applying larvicides — insecticides that kill eggs and larvae in the breeding sites. According to specialists at the University of California, mosquitoes tend to breed in water features that are not managed properly. As a prevention method, applying larvicides allows for killing much more insects since they congregate in a confined space, generally containers with standing water.
Apart from that, these solutions are safer than pesticides used to kill flying insects and can be placed in swimming pools, fountains and the like. However, the main downside of this approach is that it is useless against mature flying mosquitoes and cannot serve as the means of personal protection.
Electronic Mosquito Repellents
Electronic mosquito repellents is a compromise between effectiveness and safety. Once activated, the device starts heating a repellent mat, making it release insecticides — mainly those containing allethrin or pyrethroid as active ingredients.
Last year, one of the latest models of electronic repellents has gained Grand Award established by Popular Science. The “Best of What’s New 2018” is the magazine’s list of the most influential and awesome innovations of the year. And the innovation that has won in the Recreation Category is the first rechargeable electronic mosquito repellent in the world. According to the developers, the device delivers a higher level of performance than any traditional method.
Although the electronic repellers still deal with chemicals, low concentrations and the way the insecticide is distributed make this option much safer in comparison with fogging and spraying. They are also suggested for personal protection as a safer alternative to DEET-based lotions and sprays applied directly to the skin.