Streams

Please Explain: Mosquitoes

Friday, July 17, 2009

Mosquitoes are one of the downsides of summer, and they are expected to be especially bad this year due to all the rain this spring. We’ll find out why mosquitoes buzz and bite, how they transmit dangerous diseases, and some ways to get rid of them. Joseph M. Conlon, a retired U.S. Navy entomologist and the Technical Advisor for the American Mosquito Control Association, and Thomas W. Scott, Director of the UC Davis Mosquito Research Laboratory and Professor of Entomology, join us.

Guests:

Joseph M. Conlon, and Thomas W. Scott,
News, weather, Radiolab, Brian Lehrer and more.
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Comments [49]

Never Bitten from Seattle

I'm 45 and have never been bitten by a mosquito in my life. I'll even volunteer for free in a study!!!!! If you could figure out why I don't get bitten (and I've been in various places in the world and still no bites), you could produce a new repellent!

Jul. 29 2009 03:07 AM
Vicki Rovere from Lower East Side, Manhattan

Last summer I was beset by mosquitoes more fiercely than ever before. It seemed to me that variations in attraction had to be related to body chemistry. Are any scientists working on this? I couldn’t find any reports. I gathered Internet info on changing my body chemistry. I tried Vitamin B-1 for a couple of weeks, then garlic capsules, to no effect. Umeboshi plums seemed to reduce the number of bites from, say, five a night to three. That’s as far as I got in my research by summer’s end.

I dreaded the return of summer, and winced at reports that the latter half of the summer was expected to be especially buggy because of all the rain. But when I heard the mention of B-1 at the end of the Please Explain segment on mosquitoes, I perked up. It occurred to me that while I was dreading a mosquito onslaught I was not, in fact, getting bitten. Only a couple of bites, really.

What about B-1? About a year and a half ago, I developed muscle cramps that made walking painful. My research at that time indicated the most likely cause as a nutritional deficiency caused by advancing age (I’m 65). I set about working my way through the rcommended supplement list in the book Prescription for Nutritional Healing. I added one supplement at a time at several-week intervals. Several things helped, but it wasn’t till I got down to B-1, near the bottom of the list, that the pain finally went away completely.

So why didn’t it work when I took it as a mosquito repellant? I’ve now been taking it for about three months—I guess the two weeks I tried before wasn’t long enough.

Of course, there’s no guarantee this will solve other people’s problems—maybe you need to have a B-1 deficiency for this to work. And if it does in fact take three months to kick in, we’ll be past the summer. But if you’d like to try it and you’re planning a tropical winter vacation (or if you travel on business) I hope you’ll let me know. vickirov@worldnet.att.net.

Jul. 28 2009 06:38 AM
Sarah Lawlor from Garnerville, NY

Hand Sanitizer - use it on a mosquito bite after you are bit, to stop the itching. Thanks, Mrs. T. for this advice.

Jul. 19 2009 06:21 AM
Ro from SoHo

While living in the Caribbean without AC I discovered that a fan not only cools you while you sleep but discourages mosquitos. When I moved to NYC I immediately installed ceiling fans throughout my appartment. They are unable to fly & are grounded in turbulent air.

Also while travelling in the Greek islands many years ago I shared a pensione room with several other young people. They would imbibe alcohol copiously during the night out & I would not. They would report being bitten ferociaously while trying to sleep but no 'mozzies' ever came near me. Apparently my non-alcoholic blood was not as appealing as theirs!

Jul. 17 2009 03:51 PM
milicent tycko from stony brook, ny

Can various insects be ranked according to
how many human deaths and/or serious illness
they cause? If so, what would be the ranking
of mosquitoes? I am interested in these entomologist's informed opinion. thank you,
Milicent

Jul. 17 2009 03:49 PM
Mike C. from Downtown Manhattan

Ken Davis -- We live on the 16th floor in downtown Manhattan and even with screens on the windows we get a mosquito visitor practically every night.

Jul. 17 2009 02:39 PM
Lauren from Brooklyn

Sharon from NJ -- the mystery continues! I'm pretty prone to sweating and wear perfume daily, yet get almost no bites. I wish there were something I could say I do differently but it maybe it is just physiological difference.

Jul. 17 2009 02:01 PM
Kate Perry from Brooklyn

We use Oregano Oil for many things - it's a brilliant product. It's especially good at relieving the itch.
If you put it on right away it will make the swelling disappear. At a particularly infested garden party we used
it to relieve the itch from bites and it seemed to orevent us from getting btten again. People rather than the mosquitoes were flocking around us.....
The brand is Oreganol - the Super Strength - you can buy it at Vitamin Shoppe and Health Food Stores.

Jul. 17 2009 02:01 PM
jackie weisberg from brooklyn ny

I've been told that spraying Listerine in the garden/deck/patio area is a mosquito deterrent. I've tried it, and I think it may work. Any comment?

Jul. 17 2009 01:58 PM
Ken Davis from Manhattan

I live on the ninth floor with an open area in the rear. At night I have mosquitos in the apartment. How High can mosquitos climb? Is it possible that these pests are coming up from the ground, or is it more likely to be from a nearer source.

Jul. 17 2009 01:56 PM
allison from brooklyn

i am a mosquito magnet and i get huge swollen bites... the best remedy i have found for itching is toothpaste, specifically jason organic peppermint gel toothpaste. works instantly to relieve itching and pain.

i have also noticed that since i moved to NYC from NC in 2000, the bites i get in NYC are much bigger, much more itchy, they last longer, and also turn into bruises eventually.

Jul. 17 2009 01:55 PM
ted from nyc

the possible combinations is not 300 to the 300th power. its 300! (300 factorial) which is 300 x 299 x 298 x 297...... x 3 x 2 x 1.ted

Jul. 17 2009 01:54 PM
Barbara from Brooklyn

Over the past two summers, we have been inundated by what a Google search tells me are tiger mosquitoes. A mosquito that loves to bite in the daytime. Tiny, silent, and deadly. I've read that tiger mosquitoes were "imported" to the US a few decades ago in tires on ships and have made their way up north. And now have arrived in NYC. They are worse than any other mosquito that I've ever encountered. And I assume they are here to stay. Can you confirm this?

Jul. 17 2009 01:54 PM
Adele from Brooklyn

Mosquitos invade my apartment every summer, and while my boyfriend peacefully slumbers next to me, I am terrorized by the little beasts. In desperation one night, I came up with a repellent that you can make from household products:

mouthwash
garlic powder
lemongrass-scented deodorant

It works!

Jul. 17 2009 01:54 PM
Paul B. Rolen from United States

Hello
My wife and I live part of the year in Buenos Aires and have been noting increasingly worsening outbreaks of Dengue. Does climate change contribute to this and should we expect
outbreaks of Malaria and Dengue here in the
future.
Thank you

Jul. 17 2009 01:53 PM
cw from Brooklyn

Do propane powered Mosquito Eaters work as well as they advertise and are there any good studies to support their claims?

Jul. 17 2009 01:53 PM
RJ from brkln

Rubbing alcohol on bites is terrific.

Lemon eucalyptus as repellent also good.

Jul. 17 2009 01:52 PM
Nadia from Brooklyn, NY

Why am I rarely bitten by misquitoes but everyone else around me is not. I have had this trate since I was a baby. Are some people's blood more attractive to mosquitos then others? If so, why?

Jul. 17 2009 01:52 PM
Connie from Westchester

Is it true that a mosquito which one can hear is not the same that one that bites?

Jul. 17 2009 01:51 PM
Walter from NY

How is it that we have ridded this country of Dengue, Yellow Fever, etc. despite a huge population of mosquitoes in the U.S. and tropical countries have, for the most part, been unable to rid themselves of them?

Jul. 17 2009 01:51 PM
jean from brooklyn

is Patchouli a natural mosquito repellant?

Jul. 17 2009 01:49 PM
Sarah from Greenpoint

A friend of mine who was in the National Guard said she was told to swallow the heads of matches to repel bugs. Does this really work, and is it safe?

Jul. 17 2009 01:49 PM
Rosemary Howlett from Chatham, NJ

Do B vitamins help retard mosquitos?

Jul. 17 2009 01:49 PM
sharon from englewood, n.j.

I, too, have seldom been bitten by mosquitoes. My husband, however, will never go outside past a certain hour as he thinks he's a mosquito magnet. The difference between us that he sweats significantly where as I hardly perspire at all. As a matter of fact, he usually has to tell me if it's humid outside. I think that the mosquitoes just don't bother me because I don't put out any scent to attract them.

Jul. 17 2009 01:47 PM
Ann from Hawthorne, NY

I notice a reduction in fireflies the last few years. They used to start around Memorial Day, and be especially numerous on the Fourth of July, which was nice, and then drop off. Now they are very sparse the whole season. Is it related to the Nile Virus spraying that has been done?

Thank you.

Jul. 17 2009 01:47 PM
Jon Young from Staten Island

For ponds with or without fish, there are larvacides available to kill them. For rain collection systems, window screening should be sufficient, but you may wish to supplement with a larvacide. A fish that will eat the larva is the gambusia.

Jul. 17 2009 01:45 PM
Dorit Tabak

I have read somewhere and tried this: take some vitamin B1 about an hour before you go out. It works!

Jul. 17 2009 01:45 PM
Stanley from Manhattan

Indoor mosquitoes used to be easy to control with Shell No-Pest Strips which have been pulled from the market. Is there something that performs as well that one can currently buy ?

Jul. 17 2009 01:44 PM
Lou from brooklyn

Liberian Congress-Woman Malinda Jackson Parker has the greatest song (or pair of songs) about the dangers of mosquitoes.

You can hear "Cousin Mosquito pts. 1 & 2" here:

http://www.amazon.com/Congress-Woman-Malinda-Jackson-Parker/dp/B000QKPFN6
http://new.music.yahoo.com/malinda-jackson-parker/

Jul. 17 2009 01:44 PM
dave from nj

yesterday in my backyard a pesky mosquito kept trying to bite my dog. even when i tried to shoo it away and even offered my arm, it kept going after the dog. are there dog specific mosquitos and do i need to worry about special dog diseases?

Jul. 17 2009 01:44 PM
Vinny from Manalapan,NJ

What is the fluid in the Mosquito's belly that gets displaced by your blood, and injected into you?

Jul. 17 2009 01:43 PM
danielle jensen from manh

do mosquitoes die after they bite you?

Jul. 17 2009 01:42 PM
Alysia from brooklyn

Are rainy parts of the country (like the pacific northwest) more likely to be afflicted with heavy mosquito populations?

Jul. 17 2009 01:41 PM
bk

The Asian tiger mosquito arrived in NJ a couple of years ago. They're out in the daytime and are quite aggressive. Terrible!

Jul. 17 2009 01:40 PM
Alysia from brooklyn

I've been horribly afflicted by mosquitoes this year. (The husband never is). I think I have an allergic reaction. Are some people allergic? ALSO: Does scratching make the bites worse? Is there anyway to heal the bites other than NOT scratching??

Jul. 17 2009 01:39 PM
Donna from Stony Brook

We just put in a fish pond with waterfall --
did we just establish a home for mosquitoes inour backyard?

Jul. 17 2009 01:39 PM
Amy from Manhattan

It's fascinating that mosquitoes adjust the pitch of their buzz to harmonize w/each other! What intervals do they harmonize at?

And in trying to prevent mosquitoes from breeding, or in using pesticides on them, how likely is it that other kinds of insects or other organisms in general will be affected? We know what happened when DDT was sprayed (although I've heard applying it to netting is much safer).

Jul. 17 2009 01:38 PM
Paul B. Rolen from United States

Diet:
Can diet affect your mosquito attracting odor.
Will Garlic make you less attractive--or refraing from sweets.
Thanks

Jul. 17 2009 01:38 PM
Terry Kardos from Westchester

I, like several other people today, would like to know why some people are bitten before others. Is blood type a factor?

Jul. 17 2009 01:37 PM
Bitten from Manhattan

I was told by someone who spent time in mosquito ridden Somalia that he took a garlic pill a day and never got bitten while those around him were devoured. Any confirmation of this?

Jul. 17 2009 01:34 PM
Joel from Briarcliff, NY

If soud is used to mate, is there some way sound would disrupt their mating?

Jul. 17 2009 01:34 PM
Tom from Williamsburg

I've noticed that the mosquitoes here in nY don't buzz as much, and sometimes not at all, as opposed to the ones in my native Sweden. Why is that?

Jul. 17 2009 01:34 PM
Christie from NYC, NY

I gotta tell ya, this has been the worst episode ever. On a friday afternoon when people are looking forward to a weekend outside, away from their offices you do a show about mosquitoes and water bacteria? Way to cheer us up. With so much gloom and doom in the economy and the world, was this schedule really such a great idea???

Jul. 17 2009 01:28 PM
Anne from Manhattan

Why oh why do mosquitoes always bite me and not my husband?

And of course, what's the best natural way to make 'em go away?

Jul. 17 2009 01:25 PM
Mike C. from Downtown Manhattan

Leonard, would you please ask your guests if they are acquainted with a Spanish mosquito repellent called Cruz Verde Bloom, and if they know if it is carcinogenic. Thanks very much.

Jul. 17 2009 01:06 PM
Linda Griggs from Lower East Side, Manhattan

I put gold fish in my rain barrels because I thought the screen might not be fine enough to keep the mosquitos out. How many fish per gallon of water do you think I'll need, assuming this works at all.

Jul. 17 2009 01:05 PM
Lauren from Brooklyn

I, and a couple members of my family, get far fewer mosquito bites than most other people do. I've always been curious about why we get fewer but also why we do get some bites. I've heard two different explanations, one from a doctor and one from a brief NY Times articles several years ago. The doctor's explanation was that there are a number of different kinds of mosquitoes and that I, my dad, and my brother are allergic to just some of them. The article claimed that there was something about us that somehow repelled the mosquitoes. That the explanations were so different only puzzled me more. I'm also wondering if the reason is genetic or if it's just a coincidence that my family members are less susceptible to bites as well. Incidentally, I get even fewer than they do, and my dad claims that he's getting more as he gets older. Anyway, I suppose this is a lesser issue than people who get many, but I was wondering if anyone had any more definitive answers.

Jul. 17 2009 01:05 PM
Candice from Savannah GA

As a frequent victim of mosquito bites, a friend recommended rubbing banana peel on my battle wounds. I don't know how it works, but it's the best remedy for the insult.

PS. Why do they like to eat me more than others?

Thanks!

Jul. 17 2009 11:18 AM
Mark Hanley from Chatham NJ

There have been reports that white nose disease has killed off as much as 90 percent of the bat population in the Northeast. Since each bat eats about a pound of insects, including mosquitoes, each night, can we expect an explosion in the mosquito population now that the balance between mosquitoes and their natural predators has been upended?

Jul. 17 2009 08:56 AM

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