Are you a choice morsel?

  • Mosquitoes are legion this year
  • Why do they prefer some people to others?
  • How can you protect yourself?

The dense humidity of the past few months has been a boon for mosquitoes that have come this year to haunt our dreams. “There are more mosquitoes this year than in past years. This does not, however, mean that this year is exceptional. Some species are greater opportunists than others,” explains Slimane Boukraa, WBI (Wallonia-Brussels International) doctoral candidate working with the entomology department at Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech (University of Liège)

Thirty different confirmed species exist in Belgium. Only the females bite. They drink blood to produce their eggs. Other than that, like the males, they feed exclusively on nectar. “Mosquitoes have managed to split up the day into day shift and night shift. Some are diurnal; others begin to bite at evening. Others don’t become active until about midnight,” adds Boukraa. In other words, one can get bitten morning, noon or night, from April to fall.

Not all equal

Some people are bitten more often than others. This is due to several factors. Females find their prey from several meters away due to the CO2 emitted by our bodies (some bodies emit more than others). One piece of advice is to wash up before going to bed. This eliminates the sweat that attracts these little bugs. Next, mosquitoes tend to bite people with blood type O twice as much as those with type A. No one can help with that, unfortunately.

It also seems that dark clothing attracts these young ladies’ eyes more than light colored clothing. Since they smell their prey from afar, it’s good to avoid perfumes during summer evenings.

Several years ago, Test-Achats tested 28 different types of mosquito repellent products. The aerosol and other types of sprays that were tested are effective, but beware of long-term toxicity. Some substances are suspected of either being carcinogenic or an endocrine disruptor. Limited use is encouraged. Deet creams and sprays are the most effective, but the most dangerous for the environment, and at higher concentrations, they can even be dangerous to your health. Pregnant women and children should avoid them altogether. Their use should be limited to tropical countries. Natural products such as candles are ineffectual according to Test-Achats, same with ultrasonic devices. Plug-in devices should be avoided because they emit a product that we inhale all night while the system is at its most effective. The safest and most effective product remains the mosquito screen.

Since larvae develop in water, a good preventative measure is to avoid leaving stagnant water (in flower pots, buckets…) near the house. Finally, don’t forget that mosquitoes do have their uses. They are a favorite snack for birds, frogs, toads, swallows and bats, and in our latitude, they do not present any danger.

VIOLAINE JADOUL

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