7 Ways to Beat Mosquitoes

CC BY-SA 2.0. Oregon State University

That annoying ZZzzZZzzzzz. The foreknowledge that if the buzzing stops, days of itching will follow. And that is the best scenario; in the worst case, mosquitoes can spread diseases such as the Zika virus, Dengue fever, and West Nile.

What can you do? We look at 7 ways to fight mosquitoes - from the simple things you can do today, to the bigger picture ideas that are needed as the threat grows.

1) Fence them out

Window screens effectively keep mosquitoes out, representing a chemical-free and low maintenance option for creating a mosquito-free zone. Many people who enjoy a meal on their porch on a summer's eve have screened in patios. A friend of mine has taken this to the next level: their elevated wooden deck offers the perfect space for a barbecue, but mosquitoes and no-see-ums find their way up to feast on the feasters via the spaces between the decking. Screens underneath the deck floor solve the problem. You can see the pride in my friend's engineer husband's eyes as he demonstrates an important feature: the screens under the deck are not fixed but can be angled downward to clean out any dirt or food crumbs that fall to the floor and find their way through the boards, to be caught in the screens.

2) Prevent them

Mosquitoes lay their eggs in quiet, standing water. Get a team of volunteers to comb your neighborhood, finding any trash that can collect water and serve as a breeding ground for bugs. Eliminate waste tires: studies have shown that these are a favorite mosquito brood box - see number 7! If you have bird baths, toy pools, or similar artificial ponds and puddles, drain them and refresh the water at least weekly. If you have water collection cisterns, be sure that they are tightly covered so that bugs cannot enjoy them as a breeding paradise.

3) Repel them

If you live in an area free of the threat of mosquito viruses, you are probably better off suffering some itching than turning to chemicals, even DEET-free chemicals. But the consequences of getting sick from a bite outweigh the risks of the repellents, so find the best mosquito repellent with the least chemical risk, and use it. If possible, wear long sleeved shirts and pants, and coat these with repellent instead of applying the chemicals to the skin.

4) Mail them away

In Germany, a research team at the Leibniz Center for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF) are asking people to mail in mosquitoes. They will use the donations to create an atlas of mosquito breeds around Germany so that risks can be better assessed. Obviously, they don't want your mosquitoes if you are outside of their area of concern, but it seems like a great idea for getting a handle on the risks, especially with new diseases like Zika and chikungunya virus on the loose. So reach out to a mosquito researcher nearer to you, to find out if you can help too. Note that swatted or squashed mosquitoes are of no value -- ideally they should be frozen and then placed in a small vial for safe shipment.

5) Fund more research

We spend a lot of money on things that are relatively low risk. Because mosquito research hasn't been a cause celeb, we know relatively little about how to fight the world's deadliest animal. In the case of mosquitoes, we need to know more now. Global warming and travel for international events like this year's FIFA World Cup in Brazil further raise concerns. Fortunately, fear incentivizes action. If you cannot find a researcher to whom to mail your mosquitoes in step 4, consider giving this point serious thought.

6) Kill them

If you are among the people who believe mosquitoes have as much right to live as humans, stick with methods one through five. But if you relish the idea of putting mosquitoes out of your misery, learn for a Taiwanese woman, who won a competition by collecting the carcasses of 4 million dead mosquitoes.

7) Trap them

Save a tire or two from step 2 to make mosquito traps. Melissa gives a report on how a team in Guatemala developed a do-it-yourself method to build a mosquito trap, using old tires in part because "tires already represent up to 29 percent of the breeding sites chosen by the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes." (So even if you don't graduate to master mosquito trapper, at least don't be a mosquito host by leaving old tires around!)