More Mojitos, Less Mosquitoes: How To Rid Your Home Of The Pesky Biters
When I was in high school, I remember getting bit by a nasty mosquito.
I thought little about it because mosquitoes are an average part of life — but this bite wasn’t quite normal. It made my upper lip swell to a point where it touched my nose and made it hard to talk. It was an allergic reaction, which millions of people experience every year. I’ve kept my distance since then.
In Southern California, mosquitoes have it made. Our continuous warmer temperatures have practically created a year-round mosquito season, which gives them more of an opportunity to grow, lay eggs, and spread diseases like West Nile virus. But as we hit the peak of summer weather, mosquito activity is rising. Here’s what you need to know, courtesy of our newsroom's public affairs show, AirTalk.
What Species Of Mosquitoes Are In Our Region?
There are two main types:
- the native Culex mosquito, which can transmit the West Nile virus
- the invasive Aedes mosquito, which originated in Africa
They tend to show up at different times, according to Anais Medina Diaz, a spokesperson for the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District.
Around June, July, August:
The native Culex tend to be found in the early summer months, when more West Nile samples are found.
If you live in San Marino or the San Fernando Valley — be cautious. While most of the region’s West Nile cases are on par with previous years, Diaz says those areas are seeing more cases than normal. In total, 76 samples have been confirmed in L.A. County this year.
Around September, October, November:
A vector is any arthropod, insect, rodent or other animal that transmits a disease to other animals or humans.
The early fall months are the peak time for the Aedes mosquito, but as they’ve spread so too has their season. They can show up as early as April and linger into November. These mosquitoes are expanding more into our region because they adapt well to our increasingly hotter, drier environment.
They’re aggressive little insects that have a strong attraction to human blood, so they’ll bite people more.
While they’re rare in California, the Aedes mosquito can also transmit other nasty viruses, like Dengue, Zika, Yellow fever and Chikungunya viruses, according to the California Department of Public Health.
Why Aedes Mosquitoes Are So Pesky
Omar Akbari is an associate professor of cell and developmental biology at UC San Diego. He says the Aedes are becoming predominant, which means the species is becoming the main type of mosquito. The problem: they’re more difficult to get rid of.
“The tools we have to control them, the insecticides and the larvicides, they do work,” Akbari said. “But these mosquitoes, they can breathe in little small containers — a little bottle cap. They can lay their eggs, and their eggs can completely [dry] out and sit there for an entire year. And then when it rains, they just kind of hatch out.”
Ironically, the region’s drought-related water restrictions could work in our favor. Less water could mean fewer mosquitoes hatching. Diaz said she’s waiting to see if that will affect how much the Aedes mosquitoes spread this year.
How To Get Rid Of Them
“Mosquito control is a shared responsibility,” Diaz said. Your plan to make your home mosquito-free is only as good as what your neighbor does.
You can be very proactive but unless everyone around you is doing the same thing, your “neighborhood is not going to find relief," she said.
There are multiple things you can do, but bear in mind that you’ll want to get people nearby involved.
Clear standing water. A DIY approach to getting rid of mosquitoes can be quite effective. A lot of the water sources that mosquitoes thrive off of are generated by us — think standing water from a dripping spigot, or water left outside for your pets. You can reduce mosquitoes in your area by cleaning up clogged rain gutters, drying out buckets, and keeping fresh water in bird baths or pet dishes.
The Greater L.A. County Vector Control District has a checklist that you can use to check your property for prime mosquito breeding spots, like kiddie pools and plant pots.
Use insect repellent. You’ll want to look for ones with these active ingredients, according to the district:
- Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus/PMD
“Just like we wear sunscreen, we should wear insect repellent when we're outdoors to protect ourselves from not just the bites, but also the viruses that they can transmit,” Diaz said.
Call in the experts: If the mosquitoes where you live won’t take the hint, call your local vector control district. They can catalog, remove, and document the spread — at no cost.