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Tips for fighting mosquitoes this summer, from experts

As the weather warms and humidity increases, mosquitoes are breeding in backyards across the country, eager to prey on innocent barbecue-goers and gardeners everywhere.

Strong insect repellent may never go out of style, but it’s far from the only option for combating summer’s most annoying invaders. We asked seasoned mosquito experts – from entomologists to adventure travel gurus – how they combat mosquitoes in their own backyards. This is what they recommend.

“I’m going to sound like a boring entomologist and suggest what the CDC recommends,” says Louisa Messenger, a medical parasitologist and entomologist who teaches at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. “Personal protection,” she says, is your first line of defense, including EPA-approved insect repellents containing 25 percent DEET and wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants treated with insecticide, “usually permethrin.”

Richard Campbell, the founder of adventure travel company 10Adventures, agrees that there’s nothing better than hiding. He and his family spend the summer months deep in the Canadian Rockies, where the mosquitoes can become surprisingly virulent. Because they lay eggs near or in water, you have “almost perfect breeding grounds” in the mountains, with all those lakes, rivers and swampy areas, Campbell explains. In some areas, especially just below tree line near water, he says, “most bug spray is useless.” So the trick is not to leave any skin exposed, especially in the most vulnerable areas. “They love my ankles,” he says, which is why he often wears two pairs of socks.

In Florida’s swamps, protective measures can become even more extreme. Pete Corradino, a wildlife biologist and owner of Everglades Day Safari, says the tour groups his company leads are encouraged to load up on DEET repellent and wear hats with netting over them to cover the face and neck. In addition, it is a matter of adjustment. Meanwhile, Corradino says, “for me, a few mosquito bites is something I can tolerate.”

Dump or treat standing water

If you’ve battled mosquitoes, you know that even the smallest amount of standing water – where the females lay their eggs and the babies develop – can harbor the enemy.

Messenger says homeowners with pools should chemically treat the water with standard chemicals, including chlorine. When pools are not in use, they still need to be maintained and cleaned regularly because “mosquitoes are much less likely to breed in clean water without dirt,” she says.

People with outdoor containers that collect water “should throw them away or possibly treat them with insecticides,” although Messenger says to be wary of chemical treatments as they can also affect plant health.

For people with ponds, birdbaths and even puddles on their property, Daniel M. Parker, an associate professor of public health at the University of California, Irvine, offers a different solution: Small fish such as guppies and dragonfly larvae are natural enemies for mosquitoes. larva. Adding some to the water will help control the population.

Parker also warns against keeping certain plants in your garden. Species such as bromeliads, pitcher plants and certain types of hollow bamboo can hold small bodies of water on their leaves or in crevices and are therefore a favorite habitat for mosquito larvae.

David Price, an entomologist and director of technical services at the pest control company Mosquito Joe, says he avoids boxwood, evergreen shrubs and ligustrum shrubs, all of which can harbor mosquitoes. He recommends pruning back any thick shrubs in your yard, which provide protection from mosquitoes and a possible place to lay their eggs.

Make some diet changes

Starchy vegetables, salty and spicy foods all make you more attractive to the feasting insects. “Mosquitoes are not attracted to the food itself,” says Nicole Carpenter, president of Black Pest Prevention in Charlotte, but they may be attracted to the changes in body chemistry that come from eating certain things. “For example, spicy foods cause your body to produce more carbon dioxide.” And the carbon dioxide we exhale is how mosquitoes locate us. “Drinking alcohol, especially beer, also contributes to the release of more carbon dioxide,” says Carpenter. Plus, it can make you feel a little warmer, and elevated body temperatures are another thing that can attract mosquitoes, says UNLV’s Messenger.

Letisha Guerrero, founder of Nouveau Lifestyle, a wellness and travel blog, has extensive experience traveling internationally, often to places known for being buggy. Once in Honduras, an allergic reaction to mosquito bites led to a hospital stay, so now Guerrero is being extremely cautious. She reports that replacing sweet-smelling soaps and lotions in favor of lemongrass and citronella-scented products has made her less attractive. She says using essential oils like Murphy’s Natural Lemon Eucalyptus Oil Spray and Nantucket Spider Original Bug Repellent for People has helped her keep mosquitoes at bay.

Messenger says there’s no evidence that certain smells make you more or less susceptible to bites. However, “when you apply lotion, it changes the composition of the bacteria on your skin,” and That process, rather than the perfume in a particular product, “(can change) how you smell like mosquitoes,” making you more or less a magnet for them.

Plan your time outdoors wisely

Tracy Ellis, a San Diego entomologist at FarmSense, an agtech company, avoids exercising outdoors at dusk or dawn. “I try to get my stuff done when I’m not a perfect victim,” she says, noting that mosquitoes can find you more easily if you’re “sweaty and dirty and having trouble breathing.” Even if you’re just going for a walk on a humid summer evening, Ellis recommends showering first and taking repellent with you. She agrees that a product with DEET works best, but says the botanical, all-natural stuff is still better than nothing.

Corradino, the owner of Everglades Day Safari, reiterates that going outside at night should really be avoided in buggy-heavy areas like his Fort Myers, Florida, neighborhood. “Once it gets dark, you usually go inside because that’s when the mosquitoes can get pretty intense,” he says.

Sometimes you just have to let the mosquitoes win.

Stacey Lastoe is a Brooklyn-based writer who covers lifestyle topics.