July is probably the perfect Month in northern Minnesota if you like to spend any time on the lake. The water is near perfect and the weather is probably as good as it is going to get for swimming.
The only problem is it is nearly impossible to stay outside past 8:30 p.m. because the mosquitoes are insane.
On the Fourth of July my son and I tried to spend some time on the water’s edge to watch some of the fireworks exploding around the lake at dusk but instead of enjoying the show, we were swallowed alive by a sea of blood suckers so thick it looked like it was snowing.
Talk about a buzz kill.
We’ve been sort of spoiled so far this summer as cool spring weather delayed the inevitable and kept the mosquitoes away for a little longer than normal in June.
But now that the temps have gone up, we are definitely under attack.
Between the mosquitoes and the ants, it’s a wonder human begins are even still around. If the two insects teamed up, they could wipe us out in a day.
While looking up remedies this week for keeping both invaders away I came across this fact from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency: There are over 50 different species of mosquitoes that live in Minnesota.
While it is pretty common knowledge that mosquito eggs need water to hatch – thus the increase in the size of the swarm as we got closer to the lake last week – it is less known that females lay their eggs in bunches called rafts and that each raft can have 400 eggs.
And if you think that cold or dry or some other naturally occurring event can take out some of those eggs, you’d be wrong. According to the MPCA the eggs can sometimes lay dormant for years before they get wet enough to hatch.
Most mosquitoes stay close to where they were hatched so they can raise another brood and while some mosquito species only have one generation each year, others can have four or more.
In the winter, most mosquitoes survive as eggs in the soil. Those eggs are in a dormant stage called “diapause” which prevents them from hatching if it floods. They’ll only hatch out of the diapause stage when the day length gets longer. Some adult females and also some large pupae can survive the winter (also in a diapause stage) if they can find a protected spot.
The bottom line: Mosquitoes are nearly unstoppable.
Some other interesting tidbits from the MPCA:
•There are over 3,000 mosquito species worldwide.
•Only female mosquitoes bite and take blood. Male mosquitoes feed only on plant nectar.
•Not all mosquito species bite people. Some prefer birds, or horses, or even frogs and turtles.
•All mosquitoes need water to complete their life cycle.
•A mosquito weighs about 2 to 2.5 milligrams.
•Mosquitoes can fly about 1 to 1.5 miles per hour.
•Mosquitoes find hosts by sight, by infrared radiation and by chemicals.
•Mosquitoes infect 500 million people around the world each year with diseases, such as encephalitis and malaria.
So how does one keep mosquitoes away so they can enjoy a nice summer evening in peace? Well, that’s where it gets tricky. Outside of avoiding standing water all together or harnessing some bats and tying them to your lawn chair, there isn’t really a full-proof way to stop them.
Sure, there are lots of store-bought items out there that proclaim to work and a few home remedies people swear by but only a handful of tricks work most of the time.
According to at least one study I came across, citronella-based items don’t work well at all. In fact, the study showed that citronella repellents worked 253 fewer minutes than DEET-based products.
The study said: “While wild plants with citronella oil can be handy in a pinch, citronella candles are known to provide little to no protection against mosquitoes.”
Because the candles are usually outside, the oil is quickly diffused throughout the area and virtually no repellent can remain in one location long enough to provide any protection at all.
According to the American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA) “over 25 years of empirical testing of more than 20,000 other compounds has not resulted in another marketed chemical product with the duration of protection and broad-spectrum effectiveness of DEET.”
Of course, there is that little issue of DEET carrying some health risks.
When it comes to the use of scented perfumes, lotions and soaps, researchers say don’t bother: Mosquitoes don’t only feed on our blood, they take nectar from flowers, too. That means they love things that smell floral.
Besides, mosquitoes find their prey by following our breath or carbon dioxide so there’s no stopping that from being produced.
Finally, insect repelling clothing can help but bug zappers are basically useless. One study found only 4.1 percent to 6.4 percent of insects killed in bug zappers were actually mosquitoes.