Summer Guide: Mosquito Season

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In Far Rockaway, summers mean blue skies, long hot days, and often, too many mosquito bites. Unfortunately, as the summer heat descends on the peninsula, mosquitoes and other pests make it nearly impossible to enjoy the sun, forcing many residents to simply stay inside. Because the Rockaways are surrounded by water, they becomes a natural haven for bugs of all kind to reek havoc — especially mosquitoes, which lay their eggs in standing water. The Bayside is hit the hardest because slow-moving water from Jamaica Bay creates the perfect breeding space for mosquitoes.

Mosquito season typically lasts from April to mid-October. There are around 60 types of mosquito in the New York City Area, but only a few types feed on human blood. Of these, only the female mosquitoes bite — they need your blood to nourish their eggs. Overall, you’re most likely to be bitten by the northern house mosquito (Culex pipiens; the most common and the most irritating; likes to live in houses), the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus; the most aggressive in daylight and most painful bites; population peaks in mid-July), and the yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti; least common in NY; primarily bites humans, rather than other mammals).

While it’s true that some people are naturally more attractive to mosquitoes than others, there are no clear explanations as to why. There is no evidence that factors like blood type or skin color affect how often people are bitten. However, one peer reviewed study reports that people are more attractive to mosquitoes after drinking alcohol.

To help you fight back and make the most of your time outside this summer, the Rockaway Advocate’s Summer Mosquito Survival Guide is here! Learn how to deal with mosquito bites and how to prevent them from happening in the first place. Here are some tips to help you enjoy your summer months pest-free:

1. Get Rid of Stagnant Water:

Everyone uses bug spray for short term relief, but what can the community do as a whole to help with getting rid of these awful pests? Since standing water is almost always the culprit for mosquito breeding grounds, you should look around your home for areas that collect water such as: vases, trash cans, flower pot saucers, clogged gutters, buckets and pool covers. Be sure to dump out any water you find, and check each time it rains. If you keep a birdbath, replace the water twice a week. A single flower pot can hold enough water for thousands of mosquito larvae. Since Rockaway doesn’t have the best streets in the five boroughs, some potholes can collect even more water for breeding. 

   To cut down the mosquito population on the peninsula, residents of Rockaway should call 311 and complain to their elected officials to get those potholes fixed as soon as possible.

To cut down the mosquito population on the peninsula, residents of Rockaway should call 311 and complain to their elected officials to get those potholes fixed as soon as possible.

2. Try Mosquito Repellent Gardening:

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The Brooklyn Botanical Garden recommends planting Citronella Grass (note: Cybopogon nardus or Citronella winterianus only), Catnip, and Scented Geraniums as mosquito deterrents. The New York Botanical Garden also recommends Marigolds and Rosemary. Citronella is the most common natural ingredient in mosquito repellents, and often credited as the most effective at keeping pests away. An Iowa State University study found that catnip is 10 times more effective than DEET, the most common chemical used in insect repellents. Scented Geraniums and Marigolds are both beautiful blooms with strong fragrances that keep away several kinds of pests. In addition to being a lovely fragrant herb for any garden, rosemary has a woody scent that repels mosquitoes. Note: adult mosquitoes like to live in shaded areas, large bushes and tall grass — consider avoiding these areas in your neighborhood; or if possible, trimming/removing these plants around your home during the summer.

3. Don’t Scratch:

Now what to do when you already have bites plaguing your body and urge to scratch  them is driving you mad? Try something as simple as calamine lotion, known for its amazing properties that help alleviate itching, sunburn, poison ivy, and skin irritation. For stronger relief, you can purchase hydrocortisone cream over the counter at your local pharmacy. If your reaction to a bite seems to be worse than normal, it’s okay to take an antihistamine (advil or tylenol) to help with the swelling of the bite, while using one of the two creams to help with the overall itching. If you feel a fever coming on after a bite, it is suggested that you keep a list of your symptoms and talk to your doctor.

4. Time it Right:

You are most likely to be bitten in the evenings, nighttime and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active in searching for blood meals. Waiting out the high-activity periods in the day can save you lots of itching later on. No matter what time of day it is, the more skin you have exposed, the more real estate you’re giving mosquitoes.

5. Dress for Success:

Wearing long clothing in the early morning and evening can reduce your risk of bites significantly. It’s a good idea to keep a few lightweight long-sleeved shirts and pants on hand for the summer, to throw on when the bugs start getting bad (without overheating). Pro-tip: prep those long clothes with bug spray or permethrin (use caution) in advance of wearing them. Supposedly, dark-colored clothing may be more attractive to mosquitoes than light-colored clothes.

 Lemon eucalyptus oil, the common name of one of the natural oils obtained from the lemon-scented gum eucalyptus plant. 

Lemon eucalyptus oil, the common name of one of the natural oils obtained from the lemon-scented gum eucalyptus plant. 

6. Try a Natural Remedy:

Different sources claim that everything from wearing light-colored clothing to avoiding perfumes to drinking apple cider vinegar can help keep mosquitoes away. Various studies support using lemon eucalyptus oil, Indian neem oil, and soybean oil as natural repellents. On the not-so-credible side, other options include: eating garlic, wearing lavender oil, and wearing extract of black pepper.

 

The New York City Department of Health provides aerial/truck larvicide sprays, which target the mosquito larvae and seek to cut down the number of mosquitoes across the area. While the sprays are occurring, it is recommended that pregnant women and children stay indoors.  In addition to being itchy and irritating, it is important to note that mosquito bites can be responsible for the spread of several blood-transmitted diseases, including the West Nile and Zika viruses, malaria, dengue, yellow fever, and encephalitis.

Use these tips to protect yourself and others this summer!