If you spend any time outdoors in summer, you know too well the piercing whine of mosquitoes as they buzz past your ears. Sometimes they seem to attack in waves, and no amount of swatting even dents the squadron.
Because mosquitoes are found worldwide, there’s no escaping these pesky bugs when they drill easy hosts for blood. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of products and preventative measures to help you enjoy bug-free time outdoors.
Repellent Devices – These simple tools are arguably the most effective way to keep mosquitoes away if you’re stationary, even though you don’t have to apply sprays or chemicals to your skin or clothing. For example, Thermacell’s portable repellents are fueled by butane cartridges that trigger a heat-activated repellent mat. The mats contain a version of a naturally occurring repellent found in chrysanthemums, which releases into the air to create a 15-by-15-foot protection zone. Many other portable repellent devices clip to your belt or pack to provide spray-free protection. All these devices tend to be less effective if you’re moving.
Sprays – The most common repellent sprays applied to clothing usually contain deet or permethrin. Several manufacturers offer these potent chemicals, which discourage ticks, mosquitoes and other bugs from harassing you. Simply spray the chemical from an aerosol or trigger-spray canister onto your clothing, and let it dry before heading outdoors. Because these chemicals stay on your clothing, they’re effective for hiking and other activities. However, they usually have an odor, so they’re not ideal for bowhunting. Follow manufacturing labels when applying deet or any amount of permethrin to your skin.
Natural Sprays – If you don’t want to apply chemicals to your skin or clothing, you’ll find plenty of natural alternatives. These sprays are also effective and use plant-based oils to deter skeeters. Because they use natural oils, many of them don’t have odors that could spook game. Apply them just like you would any other spray. They won’t irritate sensitive skin or cause toxicity concerns.
Clothing – Clothing is your first line of defense against mosquitoes and other biting bugs. Some manufacturers now coat clothing with a built-in protection system to deter bites, much like some clothing is coated with UPF properties for sun protection. Simply search the internet for “insect-repellent clothing” to find options from reputable clothing companies. Don’t overlook the basics, though. You can also use a head net and lightweight gloves, and tuck your shirt inside your pants and your pant legs inside your socks to seal out insects.
If it seems the market offers an overabundance of preventative measures, it’s for good reason. Mosquito bites can become much worse than an itchy, irritating rash. Humans can contract several diseases from mosquitoes, including Zika, malaria and West Nile. The Zika virus has generated headlines recently because it can cause fever, joint pain and birth defects. Keep close tabs on mosquito bites, and watch for anything unusual after being bit. If a bite doesn’t disappear after a few days, seek medical attention.
Although mosquitoes can make the outdoors miserable, we aren’t helpless. An arsenal of tools can help us cope. If you plan to spend time outdoors, don’t hesitate to contact your state’s wildlife agency for more tips for staying bug-free.