With the deluge of rain we have had lately in the Tampa Bay area, we've all been feeling the dreaded sting a little more than usual. Here's how you can help...
1. Get rid of stagnant water.
Make sure there's no standing water anywhere — on toys left out on the lawn, plates under your flowerpots or garbage in an open can. Ponds, kiddie pools and improperly drained yards can also attract mosquitoes.
"Something as small as a bottle cap can be a breeding spot for mosquitoes," says Jim Fredericks, Ph.D., chief entomologist for the National Pest Management Association. "The good thing is that they can't fly very far, so if you can eliminate breeding spots on your property, you can greatly reduce the number of mosquitoes near your house."
To avoid a catastrophe at your next picnic, do your best to drain any standing water in the yard, empty kiddie pools or buckets and keep your guests away from ponds or other permanent fresh water sources. One watery area you don't have to worry about, though, is your swimming pool — as long as it's chlorinated and the filter is working, mosquitoes will buzz right on by.
2. Hire a pro to check hidden spots.
An exterminator can inspect areas such as gutters, which can collect water and become a prime breeding spot. While you're at it, assess your window screens and replace any that are ripped, broken or not fitting properly — especially if you live in a humid southern state.
3. Make natural repellents part of your landscape.
Some plants actually produce defensive chemicals to deter hungry animals (like deer) that will also ward off insects. But, these repellents aren't usually released unless the plant is actually harmed. So if you fill your yard with species like citronella, make sure to rough 'em up before your next party. Or if you have a deer problem, let the deer feed!
4. Apply repellent, then do it again.
A lotion or spray containing DEET (it's safe, even for kids, when used as directed), picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon or eucalyptus is your best bet for keeping mosquitoes away, but it will wear off after a certain number of hours, depending on the formula, says Fredericks. Read the instructions on that bottle of insect repellent so you'll know when to reapply. And don't forget to put it on kids ages 2 months and older too.
5. Cover your feet.
Skeeters love sweat and bacteria, making your toes a prime blood-sucking spot. "Aedes aegypti, the mosquito most likely responsible for spreading Zika, tends to bite on the lower part of the body," says Thomas Scott, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology at UC Davis. Use repellent and consider wearing high-top sneakers or high socks.
6. Dress for even more success.
Wear lightweight, light-colored clothes that hide your arms and legs. "Mosquitoes are attracted to dark colors," Scott explains. So relegate black and navy to the back of the closet and embrace those on-trend summer whites and pretty pastels.
7. Eat indoors when possible.
Scott points out that while most mosquitoes found in the U.S. bite in the evening, the types thought to carry Zika feed during daylight hours. Especially if you live in the South, which is more likely to see Zika-carrying mosquitoes, enjoy that Cobb salad inside.
8. And if you are entertaining outside, spray the day before.
If you're hosting a large outdoor soirée, we suggest trying Off!'s Backyard Pretreat. Simply attach the bottle to a hose and spray down the area you are planning on using at least 24 hours in advance.
9. Tent the patio.
If you're having a small get-together, it may be easiest to tent the area where guests will be eating. This will eliminate any concerns of food accidentally being sprayed with repellents and keep out other unwanted guests like bees and flies. Many companies make canopy tents with mosquito net accessories, or even nets that attach to outdoor umbrellas.
10. Set out candles or lanterns.
Provide mood lighting — and keep guests comfortable — with bug-deterring luminarie. For a sophisticated get-together, try a lantern like Thermacell's mosquito repellent patio lantern, which can be hung or placed on a flat surface.
However, if you're looking to party late into the night, consider longer-lasting candles. Wax that contains geraniol is much more effective than citronella at repelling mosquitoes, so make sure you look for candles that specifically contain this ingredient.
Whatever sources you're using, you'll want to strategically place your lights to ensure adequate coverage. Most of these products repel up to a 15-inch by 15-inch square foot area, but check the packaging and then place accordingly!