Tag Archives: West Nile virus

Some Facts About Mosquitoes

Conjecture: Mosquitoes are probably the most annoying insects on the planet. Fact: They are one of the most dangerous animals on the planet. They’re a source of discomfort, a vector for disease, and they seem to be everywhere we are when enjoying nature, or lately, even just reading the news. Here at Pocket Ranger®, we and our sponsor Thermacell® want to talk about this pest that has brought itself to the forefront of our thoughts as the weather improves and we are drawn outdoors. We’re here to discuss the facts while underlining the importance of mosquito bite prevention.

mosquitoes are the worst.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito enjoying a meal. It’s astonishing the lengths folks will take to photograph these hungry blighters. [Image: www.cdc.gov/]

The Obvious

  • Mosquitoes make up the family Culicidae, approximately 3,500 flying, biting insect species best known for drinking blood from mammals, reptiles, birds, and basically anything else with blood they can sink their proboscises into. They tend to be crepuscular feeders, taking their meals at dawn or dusk.
  • In most mosquito species, female mosquitoes drink blood for protein that is essential to produce eggs before or after mating. Some species are capable of drinking as much as three times their bodyweight.
  • Particularly before they begin mating, female mosquitoes, like their male counterparts, subsist on the sugar from fruit and flower nectar.
  • The mosquito is a food source for birds, bats, amphibians, reptiles, and other animals, despite being a fairly well adapted hunter itself.

Mosquitoes in the U. S. of A.

A map showing mosquito ranges

This map shows the potential ranges of the invasive mosquito species Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictis in the United States, but does not detail the mosquitoes’ populations or risk of disease transmission. Aedes aegypti is a known carrier of the Zika Virus. Aedes albopictis is not confirmed as a vector here, but could become a viable transmitter of Zika and other diseases. [Image: www.cdc.gov/]

Though West Nile Virus is now endemic in California, mosquito-borne illnesses like Chikungunya, Yellow Fever, Dengue, Malaria, and other dangerous infections are not common in the continental United States. From a historical standpoint, and as a sweeping general rule, the roughly 200 species of mosquitoes in the U.S. tend to be a nuisance to folks spending time outdoors rather than a transmitter of diseases. We’ve been very fortunate in that way.

However, these days, particularly while discussing mosquitoes, we can’t help but talk about the very present context of the Zika Virus and other mosquito-borne diseases. Aedes aegypti has been indicated as the primary agent of Zika, largely because it favors living in close proximity to its preferred food source: humans. Aedes aegypti enjoys a comfortable potential range that would extend throughout much of the southern and coastal portions of the U.S. where weather and temperature are a bit more within the mosquito’s varied tropical, sub-tropical, and temperate preferences. And, well, it’s just good practice to prevent or avoid mosquito bites by any reasonable means, regardless of Zika or any other illness, no matter where you live.

Ways to Naturally Prevent Mosquito Bites and Hinder Population Growth

[Image: www.mosquitomagnet.com]

It looks like a great place to clean your feathers, but it’s not a good idea to have one of these hanging around without also having a way to mitigate the mosquito eggs that could hatch from the waters. [Image: www.mosquitomagnet.com/]

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states on its website, “The best way to prevent Zika and other viruses spread through mosquito bites is to prevent mosquito bites.” Well, when you put it like that, CDC! Thankfully, there are many easy and natural ways to reduce the incidence of mosquito presence and mosquito bites.

  • Wear protective clothing. You can wear long sleeves and pants to reduce the area a mosquito can dig in. Or if it’s just too unbearable to wear that much fabric, you can wear bug spray, DEET, or any number of other topical remedies. Just be sure if you’re wearing sunscreen. too, you apply insect repellent last. Or, as we’ll get to in a minute, there’s an alternative to any of that smelly stuff.
  • If the water’s standing, flip it over. Or use it to water a plant. Birdbaths may be quaint, but they are mosquito nurseries. Rainwater repositories, horse or livestock water troughs, your dog’s outside water bowl, a non-aerated koi pond, and any other number of vestibules and yard items can contribute to your home’s immediate mosquito population. You can mitigate this by simply taking steps to make sure water isn’t sitting or stagnating for days after rain.
  • Herbs and flowers can save your skin. You can plant and grow mosquito repellent plants. Do some research about what grows best in your climate, but trust in the staples like peppermint, lemongrass, basil, garlic, the popular citronella, and even catnip! Most of these plants can be bought already grown, are fairly easy to maintain, and have uses beyond driving bugs away.
  • Choose a repeller you trust. In the spirit of saving the very best for last, you’re probably aware by now that there’s a virtually odorless mosquito repellent with a 98 percent effectiveness rating that requires no oily bodily application. Our favorite way to reduce the chance of mosquito bites is with Thermacell® appliances that wield allethrin, a synthetic copy of the natural mosquito repellent found in chrysanthemums that forms a 15′ by 15′ shield around your outdoor work or hangout space. You can find out how this terrific tool works here.

Thermacell logo.

A combination of all these solutions are the ideal way of reducing incidence of mosquito interaction around your home or campsite, but you’d do well to keep your Thermacell appliance nearby wherever you are. [Image: www.thermacell.com/]

For all the frustration mosquitoes might impose on our lives, the world is just too great and offers too many nature-packed reasons to warrant a life confined to netted spaces or freezing climates. Download a Pocket Ranger® mobile app, gear up with your Thermacell®, get out there, and explore!

Fact or Fiction: Debunking Insect Myths

Image: Image: www.news.filehippo.com

Image: www.news.filehippo.com

Insects, although vital to the ecosystem, can be downright annoying at times, especially when we’re trying to enjoy our the outdoors. Many family picnics have been run afoul with the presence of mosquitoes and flies, and picnics ruined due to ants marching at our feet. You’ve probably seen some of your elders use homemade remedies such as dryer sheets and water to ward off insects. Well, we’re back debunking insect myths.

Ants Will Avoid Areas With Chalk

Chalk is said to be one of ants’ biggest enemies, well, besides Raid. Varying sources provide varying theories on this phenomenon. No one is completely sure why ants tend to avoid walking over chalk – some think it’s a chemical contained in chalk that turns them off. Some say if you’re having an ant problem in your house or around your picnic area, drawing a line will keep them at bay.

Verdict:

Yes and no. Chalk does deter ants, but only for a while. Ants operate by following scent trails of other ants and anything that disrupts that scent (chalk) will daze the ants. Eventually, they will wise up to the situation and forge on. So, this myth can be chalked up to no good.

Dryer Sheets Keep Mosquitoes Away

Image: www.gianteagle.com

Image: www.gianteagle.com

The downturn of any exciting camping trip or family barbecue are those pesky mosquitoes all a-buzzing around. Since mosquitoes are such a nuisance, people have taken extreme measures to keep them away including using mobile apps and bubble machines, but the best mosquito repellent of all is located in your laundry room. Dryer sheets, the myth says, will repel mosquitoes away from you by rubbing the sheets on your skin. Mosquitoes are attracted to the natural human scent, so if you can effectively mask that scent, you’ll be less of a target.

Verdict:

Not really. The results of this experiment have been mixed at best. It was proven that dryer sheets help fend off gnats, but not mosquitoes. Your best bet would be to use mosquito repellent.

Hot Spoon On Bug Bites Relieves Itching

Image: www.lifehacker.com

Image: www.lifehacker.com

How many times have you been outside and not able to enjoy nature because of the constant bug bites. The itching sensation from mosquito bites comes from proteins in its saliva that’s used to clot your blood. People in the old days would place a hot spoon over the area to alleviate the itching sensation.

Verdict:

Yes! Life Hacker says if you heat up a spoon and place it over the itch for about 30 seconds, this will alleviate the sensation. Don’t bother scratching, that further aggravates the area because it increases the body’s histamine response.

Bags of Water Keeps Flies Away

Image: www.http://susiej.com

Image: www.http://susiej.com

It’s an old wives’ tale that no one can seem to debunk. The myth goes that hanging Zip-lock bags full of water (sometimes with pennies on the inside) will keep flies away. The most common theory about why this method works is that flies, with their compound eyes, are confused by the refracted light coming from the bag of water.

Verdict:

Undetermined, but probably not true. Our good friends at Mythbusters put this myth to task by creating two spaces with rotting meat, one with water and one without.The results showed that the number of flies in both rooms were almost equal, thus busting the myth.

Suggested Gear List: 

  • Roxy Musing Backpack – Women’s
  • Zensah Reflect Compression Arm Sleeves
  • Katadyn Combi Microfilter

Check out our Pocket Ranger® Gear Store for these items and more!