The mosquito population has potential to be high this year due to flooding and rainfall. Stagnant or quiet pools of water provide excellent habitat for mosquito development.
While mosquitoes can vector a number of diseases, of most concern for Nebraskans are the encephalitis viruses, especially West Nile. People need to take steps to protect themselves from mosquito bites.
When possible, avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are most active. This is during evening and morning hours. When outdoors, wear light colored clothing that covers arms and legs. Keep in mind that mosquitoes will bite through thin cloth.
Repellents applied to skin or clothing can provide temporary protection if applied correctly and at correct intervals. Always read and follow label directions. There are many products sold as mosquito repellents but not all are equally effective.
Products that have an EPA registration number on the label were evaluated against the pests listed on the label and shown to be effective and safe when applied according to instructions. Products without an EPA registration number or those marketed as natural may provide little to no protection at all.
Repellents prevent mosquitoes from detecting and biting people. Coverage on exposed skin (not under clothing) must be thorough. Of the repellents, consumers highly rate the four active ingredients DEET, Picaridin, IR3535 and Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus.
DEET has been an effective repellent for over 40 years. Research has shown no adverse reactions to people or the environment when used according to label directions. DEET products are available in a wide variety of concentrations, but products of 25-30 percent provide up to eight hours of protection. It is better to reapply after eight hours than to use a higher percentage.
DEET can damage rubber, plastic, vinyl and elastic materials like watches, cameras and sunglasses. Some people experience bad reactions to DEET; others dislike the odor and the oily/sticky feeling of DEET.
An effective DEET-free option is picaridin 20 percent which is odorless, safe on plastics, and does not feel greasy or sticky on skin. It can be used on children as young as two months. Remember to read and follow label directions for safe use.
Another DEET-free option is oil of lemon eucalyptus 30 percent. This EPA-registered product offers protection against mosquitoes for up to six hours. It cannot be used on children under 3 years of age. Oil of lemon eucalyptus is NOT the same as lemon eucalyptus oil or lemongrass essential oil, so don’t be fooled.
A product called the Thermacell Portable Mosquito Repeller is a portable, odorless repelling device that releases a synthetic pyrethroid to repel mosquitoes within a 15-foot zone of protection. It requires butane cartridges for power and replaceable repellent mats.
On a smaller scale, the battery-powered Off! Clip-On Mosquito Repellent clips on to the waistband and releases a vapor of the insecticide metofluthrin into the immediate environment. This may help for stationary individuals for a short period of time, but should not be used as a primary repellent.
Products that DO NOT repel mosquitoes effectively and consistently include wearable bracelets, bands and patches, citronella candles, bug zappers, or using smart phone apps or plug-in ultrasonic devices.
For this and other information on mosquito control, go to extensionpubs.unl.edu and type mosquitoes in the search box.
Source: Jody Green, UNL Extension Educator-Entomology
Kelly Feehan is a community environment educator for Nebraska Extension-Platte County.