Five mosquito myths (no, they can't transmit COVID-19)
Good news: Mosquitoes do not transmit the COVID-19 virus.
Bad news: Mosquitoes remain an active annoyance.
The buzzy biters are busy during these warm summer months, especially in wooded areas or near water, where they have the ideal conditions to breed and grow.
And while public health authorities and entomologists say they don't pose a coronavirus risk, mosquitoes still can carry the West Nile virus, which can cause moderate to severe illness.
Making efforts to avoid the itchy burn of mosquito bites is still a smart move, say experts like George Balis, Midwest regional manager for Clarke mosquito control, and Garrett Garofolo, franchise owner of Mosquito Authority in Northern Illinois.
Here, Bails and Garofolo debunk five mosquito myths to help in the fight against these bloodsucking creatures:
Myth: Mosquitoes spend most of their lives in the air.
Reality: It's actually water where mosquitoes spend the majority of their life span, so to get rid of mosquitoes, get rid of standing water.
Mosquitoes lay their eggs in water, where they can rest dormant for four to six years, Balis said. Once water levels rise and temperatures warm to roughly 50 degrees, Garofolo said, eggs can progress into larval and pupal developmental stages.
The time mosquitoes spend as flying adults is short, especially for males, which don't bite humans to suck blood. The average adult mosquito lives roughly a week.
Myth: Water? What standing water? I don't have a pond or floodwater in my yard, so there's nowhere for mosquitoes to breed.
Reality: Check for water in wheelbarrows, clogged gutters, baby pools, bird baths, flower pots, even upside-down plastic discs. These small pools of water give plenty of space for mosquito eggs to grow. A water bottle cap, for example, gives enough room for 500 mosquito eggs, Garofolo said.
Myth: If I don't want to use traditional bug spray -- that oily, sticky stuff with DEET -- I'm out of options.
Reality: DEET isn't the only active ingredient in repellents recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The CDC also recommends use of products containing picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol and 2-undecanone, some of which are organic, Balis said.
The EPA adds catnip oil, citronella and citronella oil to the list and offers a search feature to find products among 630 recommended options.
Myth: Chrysanthemums repel mosquitoes. Purple martins and bats eat them. So plants and animals offer all the protection I need.
Reality: "When I speak to garden clubs, everyone wants to plant something that's going to get rid of mosquitoes," Balis said.
Chrysanthemums are a popular option because some types of repellents contain an ingredient derived from chrysanthemum flowers.
"That doesn't necessarily mean a chrysanthemum flower stops mosquitoes," Balis said. "Its components, when broken down and made into a product, work against mosquitoes. Just having a plant doesn't necessarily kill or repel mosquitoes."
Sorry, green thumbs.
And while purple martins and bats do eat mosquitoes in small numbers, these are not reliable ways to reduce mosquito populations, Balis said.
Myth: I downloaded this smartphone app that repels mosquitoes, so I'm good.
Reality: Sound-emitting apps, bug zappers, vitamin B12 and garlic, Listerine, clip-on wristband repellents -- often these products, off-label uses, offbeat ideas or home remedies don't work, Balis and Garofolo say. Their advice is to follow the old rule: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Instead, try these steps to decrease mosquito populations and lower the likelihood of bites: Remove standing water (even the smallest amounts); follow directions on any repellents or yard treatments to ensure effectiveness or hire a pest control contractor; burn a candle or start a fire because smoke deters mosquitoes; and try turning on a fan -- yes, a fan -- outside, since mosquitoes don't do well in high winds.
"Mosquitoes are not the greatest fliers in the world," Garofolo said, "so as you oscillate the air around you, it helps to prevent them from wanting to land on you."