The Plight of the Jersey Mosquito!

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By, Pam Teel

We wait in anticipation for our Jersey summer to begin. New Jersey, known for its beautiful beaches, abundance of pork roll, jersey tomatoes, tasty sweet corn, Springsteen, and oh yes, on a much lesser degree, our Jersey Mosquito! Hard to believe these little bloodsuckers can make your summer a living hell.

You might wonder why it’s always you getting all bitten up and not your spouse or your kid, or your best friend. A lot of that has to do with what you eat, drink, wear, bacteria on your skin, and even, how you breath. Mosquito bites come solely from the female of the species. They rely on the protein in human blood and other mammals for egg production. Male mosquitoes survive on nectar for nourishment.

Here are some reasons mosquitoes dine on some people more than others:

Studies have shown that mosquitoes do prefer to dine on certain blood types more than others. If you are O+, look out! The Asian tiger mosquito loves to make a cocktail out of your blood. AB type blood seems to attract the marsh mosquito. You may ask, but how do they know the difference in blood? Around 80 percent of people produce a secretion that signals what blood type they are.

Mosquitoes can also sense carbon dioxide from a significant distance. The more you exhale, the more attractive you become. Larger people exhale more, so they’re more likely to receive bug bites. Since you exhale carbon dioxide through your nose and mouth, mosquitoes are especially attracted to your head. They can see humans from a distance of 16 to 49 feet. Female mosquitoes are also attracted to heat and may choose to fly toward people even when there are other sources of heat available. You may notice that you get bites if you exercise outside, or venture out on hot days. They do a great job sniffing out human sweat. They’re attracted to lactic acid, ammonia, and other compounds emitted in it. Might be a good idea to head inside after a vigorous outdoor activity.

Mosquitoes also prefer certain skin bacteria. Your skin is naturally teeming with microscopic life. These bacteria create a distinct fragrance when mixed with sweat. The types and amount of bacteria on a person’s skin can play a role in how many mosquito bites they get. Mosquitoes may be especially drawn to ankles and feet because these areas are especially ripe for bacterial growth. They prefer people with significantly more carboxylic acids on their skin. One study found that these fatty acids were highly concentrated on the skin of those who were most attractive to mosquitoes.

Pregnancy also attracts some mosquito species. One study found that mosquitoes tend to gravitate around pregnant women more so that non- pregnant ones. This may happen for a couple of reasons. One reason being, people in late pregnancy exhaled a 21 percent greater volume of breath than non- pregnant women.

For some reason or other, mosquitoes are also drawn to those who drink beer. If that wasn’t bad enough, what you eat can also make you tastier for mosquitoes. Salty, sweety, spicy, or potassium rich foods, such as bananas, are believed to attract more mosquitoes. Mosquitoes use their eyes to target victims. Research shows that mosquitoes gravitate more toward green and black surfaces than toward white or grey surfaces. If you tend to get bug bites, it may be because mosquitoes have an easy time seeing you.

Mosquito bites are more than just annoying. Mosquitoes are vectors, which are living organisms that can transmit diseases, such as Zika virus and malaria. Mosquitoes lay eggs in standing water.

Tips to cut the mosquito population in your yard:

• Remove items that collect rainwater that you don’t need, like old tires.

• Empty items that catch rainwater after a storm.

• Change the water in fountains and bird baths at least once a week.

• Clean the gutters on the roof to keep water flowing.

How you landscape your yard helps, too. Keep your lawn clipped short, and plant vegetation that repels insects, such as:

• Lavender

• Marigold

• Citronella grass (lemon grass)

• Catmint

• Rosemary

• Basil

• Mint

• Sage

• Allium

Insect repellants can be an effective way to prevent mosquito bites.

If you want to avoid these chemicals, a number of essential oils can also be used to keep mosquitoes at bay. Oil of lemon eucalyptus has been found to be the most effective natural mosquito repellent. Studies have also shown that citronella can provide a bit of protection.

There are approximately 63 different types of mosquitoes in New Jersey. The three prevalent ones are, the Asian Tiger, Cattail, and white-footed woods mosquito.

The Cattail mosquito can carry the eastern equine encephalitis virus. It attaches to sedges, cattails, and other plants. Adult specimens prefer forested places and are most active during the evening hours. Females are particularly aggressive.

Asian Tiger mosquitoes thrives in warm wet environments. They may carry the west Nile virus, yellow fever, encephalitis, and other illnesses, as well as the zika disease.

The white footed woods mosquito doesn’t pose the same danger as the others. They are extremely common and the female also tends to be very aggressive toward humans. In rare cases, they can transmit the western Nile and Venezuelan Encephalitis viruses. There are dozens of other types of mosquitoes in New Jersey and they all pose some sort of health hazard.

You may wonder why they itch so much. When mosquitoes probe around in your skin, they’re putting saliva into your body, and you react to the protein in the saliva. How big the welt is varies from person to person, especially because some people have allergic reactions. Most mosquito bites will swell and itch for a day or two and then get better over time. Try not to scratch them, as you do not want to break the skin. To reduce the swelling, apply an ice pack to the site, and for itching, a mixture of baking soda and water will help, or you can apply an over-the-counter anti-itch or antihistamine cream.

If the welt continues to get bigger, redder, and hot after five to seven days, it could be a sign of a bacterial infection called cellulitis, and antibiotics might be needed to treat it. If you start experiencing other symptoms, such as fever, headaches, or body aches, you might want to immediately consult with your doctor.

You might have heard that mosquitoes die shortly after they suck your blood out. Unfortunately, it’s just a myth. All species of mosquitoes have the same four-stage life cycle: egg, larvae, pupa, and adult. In general, a mosquito’s entire life cycle from egg to adult takes around 8 to 10 days. Once they’re adult mosquitoes, their lifespan depends on whether they’re male or female: males only live about one to two weeks, while females can live for one to three months.

After a mosquito has bitten you, the drawn blood nourishes her eggs with protein and amino acid. The female mosquito can live up to 100 days and lay anywhere between 200 to 300 eggs within her lifespan, so she is continually feeding.

During feeding, a female mosquito can separate water from the blood supply using six needles within her proboscis. By injecting her saliva into the bloodstream, the mosquito prevents the blood from coagulating, which would interfere with her feeding. The side effect of the mosquito’s saliva is an itch that can be unbearable.

So, as we glide through rest of the summer months, there is little else we can do to avoid these pesky things, except stay inside!