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Taking the bite out of bug season


Entomologist Taz Stuart says taking the right precautions are key to beating mosquito season in Yellowknife, including applying DEET and covering exposed skin.
Dylan Short/NNSL photo

There will soon be a familiar buzz in the air as mosquito season returns to the North.

While swarms of the bloodthirsty bugs, itchy bites and spray-on repellents are all part of venturing outdoors during the summer, there are a few simple steps you can take to help protect yourself.

“Lots of people don't notice mosquitoes until the summertime when the nuisance variety comes out and they're (stronger) biters,” Winnipeg entomologist Taz Stuart told Yellowknifer.

That's when people “see them and feel them.”

Personal protection measures are key.

For Stuart, that means spraying on DEET as the label instructs and reapplying it after jumping into the water for a swim.

“Make sure it's on you all over," he said. "Miss a spot, and that mosquito will find that spot.”

He also encourages the wearing of light-coloured clothes with long pants and sleeves. Mosquitoes on the hunt are attracted to dark clothing, exhaled carbon dioxide, warmth and body odor.

Consequently, female mosquitoes – the ones that bite – tend to be more attracted to people who are active.

They're also “picky,” explained Stuart, meaning they bite some people more than others.

A number of factors including blood type, metabolism, exercise, shirt color and even drinking beer can make individuals especially delicious to mosquitoes.

“It could be a cologne," he said. "Maybe you smell better than the other person. Or, if you have a lot of body odour, maybe you're the favourite target.”

When it comes to the weather mosquitoes are just like us, said Stuart. When it's hot, they'll take cover under the shade of trees, decks and leaves until a more suitable time like dawn or dusk arrives. If it's a cooler day and you're spending some time in the backyard, “that's where they're going to find you."

Campers can discourage the bugs by wearing permethrin-treated clothing, which is also an important tick prevention tool.

To control their population, it's best to eliminate the standing water where mosquitoes live and breed. That means emptying water from flower pots, buckets, old tires and any place rain water collects.

The best strategy is to “dump it, drain it, spill it, cover it or treat it,” said Stuart. “No water equals no mosquitoes.”

There are many mosquito myths floating around that won't save you from getting bit, said Stuart.

Some people claim that eating bananas might repel mosquitoes, but that is untrue, he said.

Others believe that mosquitoes can be scared off by placing a dryer sheet under your hat but, “There's no rhyme or reason to that,” said Stuart. “Don't do it.”