Mosquitoes: Prevent the Bite and Soothe the Itch
Shannon King, Charity Director
Summer nights often bring the dreaded vampires, I mean mosquitoes, out to feast. Luckily, in Southern California, the region is arid enough that I usually escape a camping trip with only a couple of bites around the ankles and honestly I don’t use any bug spray. I would rather get bitten than spray chemicals on myself. Growing up in the Midwest was an entirely different scenario. I spent my high school years in marching band, along with other things, and our school sat on the banks of the Muskingum River. I can vividly remember standing there at attention as the sun would begin to set and I’d see a cloud of mosquitoes awaken and arise from the river. It was quite distressful but thank goodness for bug spray back then!! It wasn’t uncommon to be covered with bites and any given time if you forgot.
In celebration of our common dislike for these pesky pests lets discover ways to control breeding on your property, avoid getting bitten, and how to ease those itchy bumps. On a more serious note the Zika virus, which is carried by these little blood suckers, is rapidly spreading across the Americas as well as West Nile Virus and Chikungunya. Mosquito control should be taken very seriously.
Prevention first begins with minimizing their breeding on your property and trapping those little vampires that want to suck your blood. Do a walk about around your property and remove and breeding sites. Mosquitoes will breed in any of the smallest amounts of standing water. A mosquito can lay up to 200 eggs in a tiny bottle cap size pool of water. Time Health recommends the following:
- Get rid of old tires, tin cans, buckets of water, and anything that can catch rainwater.
- Keep drainage areas free of trash and leaves so that if water is flowing out of your house, it’s not stagnant.
- Check air conditioning drip pans.
- Make sure the gutters on your home are clean and free of leaves.
- Cover your trash containers to keep out rain water.
- Fix any leaky faucets and hoses, since mosquitoes can breed in the water that pools underneath them.
- Change water in bird baths regularly as well as drip trays under flower pots.
- Be aware of any hollow holes in tree stumps.
- Turn over any boats or kayaks.
- Regularly change tarps that are over firewood or an outdoor pool.
- Make sure the screens on your windows and doors are well maintained.
Your next line of defense will be to repel mosquitoes from your around the outside of your home. There are several herbs that these little ankle biters aren’t a fan of. Plant these for a natural barrier plus now you have that little herb garden you wanted!
- Lemon grass
- Lemon balm
- Bee balm
- Scented geraniums
For planting instructions and more information please visit:
Let’s now trap as many as we can.
Homemade Mosquito Trap
– 2 liter bottle
– 1C of hot water
– 1/4C of brown sugar
– 1g of yeast.
– Black paint or wrapping
- Cut your bottle in half
- Mix brown sugar into the hot water. Allow to cool then pour into the bottom half of the bottle.
- Add yeast. No mixing is required. It will create carbon dioxide which attracts the mosquitoes.
- Place the top half, upside down like a funnel, into the bottom half and tape together if desired.
- Mosquitoes are attracted to the color black so you may want to cover the outside of the bottle with something black or paint it black.
- Change the solution every two weeks for continuous control.
Now that we’ve cleaned up the standing water, planted some natural repellants, and set a trap or few, lets whip up some natural repellant – no chemicals! There are three essential oil combination options to this simple mix. You will need a BPA free spray bottle.
- In 2 C of water mix in…
- 20 drops of citronella essential oil
- Add in one of the following options
- 5 drops of lemon essential oil (EO) + 10 drops of eucalyptus EO
- 5 drops of geranium EO + 10 drops lavender EO
- 5 drops of lemon EO + 10 drops of basil EO
Summer means getting outside and having some adventures so its honest to say that you aren’t always going to be at home. When you are going to be elsewhere in the summer evenings be sure to take your repellent with you. Won’t it be nice to smell yummy to you and gross to those little vampires? I hate smelling like bug spray. Wear long clothing to cover your arms and legs. Mosquitoes really like the lower extremities so cover your legs and pull up those socks. Don’t worry, no one will see. This is great for camping but those warm summer nights also call for something more like a fun skirt, shorts or sandals. Try as hard as we might you may end up with a few die hard biters that get a taste of you after all. Let’s treat those itchy bumps now.
There are many home remedies for relieving the itches. Do your own searching for more crazy but effective options.
Oatmeal – I’m not so sure about this one but here it goes. Oatmeal contains special compounds that are anti-irritant and can relieve itching and swelling. I guess dabbing on a little oatmeal at breakfast may be better than scratching yourself raw at the table. Mom might not be thrilled about it though.
Crushed ice – This is a temporary fix but will cause capillaries to constrict and reduce swelling and itching. Be sure to use a barrier against your skin such as a washcloth to prevent skin damage.
Honey – Honey is great as it contains many anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. It’s quite popular in home remedies. A little dab will ease itching but your doggie might be happy to help you clean up that honey you got on your leg.
Aloe vera – The gel inside of the plant has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and can help to heal minor bites and wounds.
Baking soda – I find that this works great. Create a paste with a little sodium bicarbonate and water or witch hazel to apply to your bites. Allow it to sit for at least 10 minutes before washing. Baking soda is a natural disinfectant and reduces inflammation and witch hazel acts as a natural astringent and will draw out excess fluids.
Tea bags – Gently rub a used tea bag over your bites. The natural tannins in the leaf draws out excess fluids.
Tea tree oil – Dab on a drop of tea tree oil onto your itchy bites for quick and effective relief. Tea tree oil is not only anti-inflammatory but also anti-microbial. You can make a salve with baking soda and water plus a couple of drops of tea tree oil.
Orajel – Do you have teething children about? Orajel will stop those bites from itching right away.
Peppermint toothpaste – I use this one too. Its super convenient and works great. Just dab on a tiny amount over your bites and you’re good to go.
I hope this helps with your summer mosquito problems and helps to lessen the chemicals going into your yard, on your skin and into your lungs, plus now you smell nice!