The Deadliest Creature on Earth . . . lives right in your backyard
August 01, 2015
Yes, it’s true. The creature that kills more human beings than any other on the face of the earth is summer’s most common pest. The blood-sucking fiends that plague your backyard barbecue are more than just a nuisance —they are dangerous. The humble mosquito is responsible for 725,000 deaths a year (600,000 of those are from the transmission of malaria). Sharks, who get such bad press that there is a whole week devoted to “Sharks are scary” TV programming (wasn’t Shark Week just a couple of weeks ago?), are responsible for only around 10 deaths a year. The World Health Organization put out this nifty graphic to illustrate the point:
(I’m fascinated by the 10,000 deaths-by-snail)
So, how much do you know about Mosquitos, and, more importantly, how can you keep them away?
Did you know?
- Mosquito is Spanish for “little fly” and they certainly are “little.” The average mosquito weighs only 2.5 milligrams.
- Mosquitos have been around for about 400 million years, as far back as the Triassic Period. (Of course, we learned that fun fact when we watched “Jurassic Park” J)
- Mosquitos can fly 1 to 1.5 miles/hour, and some mosquitos travel up to 40 miles for their next meal.
- There are around 2,700 species of mosquito, and they are found in every region of the earth except Antarctica. During certain seasons of the year, they outnumber every other creature on earth, except for ants and termites.
- The itching associated with mosquito bites is an allergic reaction to the mosquito’s saliva. The saliva is intended to numb your skin (so you are not so quick to swat said mosquito) and to thin your blood so it’s easier to suck.
- Mosquitos definitely are more attracted to some people than to others. (My husband has always joked that he never needs mosquito repellent — he just brings me along and all the mosquitos make a beeline right for me).
So, what attracts mosquitos? Here are a few mosquito enticements:
—Warm Bodies. Mosquitos sense infrared radiation given off by body heat.
—Carbon Dioxide and Lactic Acid. Mosquitos sense certain chemicals and are particularly attracted to CO2 and Lactic Acid, which are present in higher amounts in very active people and in larger people.
—Smelly Feet. Certain mosquitos really like people with smelly feet. There’s no accounting for taste.
So, how do we get rid of the little buggers?
First, keep them from making more little buggers. Eliminate places where mosquitos lay eggs, and that means standing water. In other words:
- Get rid of anything that collects and holds water. Look around your yard and take notice of old tires, buckets, tin cans, making sure that nothing is collecting water.
- Clean your gutters and make sure they are draining well. Also make sure water is draining off of any tarps or covers (grill covers, etc.).
- Check to make sure all faucets and garden hoses are completely turned off and that no water is pooling around your air conditioning unit.
- Fill holes, ditches, and puddles.
- Change water in water features, birdbaths, etc. at least once a week. They may also be treated with larvicides.
Of course, some mosquitos will still make it to adulthood. What can you do?
- Get rid of them with adulticides (insecticides designed for adult mosquitos) such as foggers for your outdoor events, or try mosquito traps/bug zappers.
- Keep the little buggers away with repellents—those you apply to your skin, such as DEET or even essential oils, and also those you keep around you, such as citronella candles.
- Keep them away by dressing appropriately. Light-colored clothing seems to be less attractive to mosquitos than dark-colored clothing, and, of course, covering up your skin with clothing is a great way to keep the pests away.
- Take away their favorite things. Mosquitos like to rest on weeds and vegetation, so keeping your yard mown and weeded helps to take away the mosquito’s favorite resting spots. Also, dense ground covers (like English ivy) tend to hold water on or under their leaves, which is a great draw for mosquitos. Eliminating vegetation which attracts mosquitos will help keep them away.
So, hopefully you’ve learned a little more about mosquitos and how to avoid them.
Now, go ahead and enjoy that end-of-summer backyard barbecue!
Just spray on some Off before you do, and grill a burger for me :)
- Redeem Your Ground, Declaring War on Mosquitos
- The American Mosquito Control Association, www.mosquito.org
- Gates Notes, The Deadliest Animal in the World
- The Washington Post, The Most Deadly Creature on Earth