The Mosquito Plague in Melbourne and What You Can Do to Defend Yourself

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Mosquito feeding
Mosquitoes are without a doubt the most dangerous animals on the planet. Their sheer numbers and the fact they can carry a host of deadly diseases is scary. They are responsible for more estimated deaths than any other animal in the world because of the rate they spread them. And this year the weather has provided perfect conditions for their breeding – damp and warm.

Spring this year has been extremely warm. Add that to the recent floods and you have the recipe for a full-fledged disaster. Mosquito populations have risen an entire month ahead of season, with some entomologists suspecting it’s entirely possible some of the hatchlings have been in diapause since previous mosquito season over the past several months due to unfavourable conditions.

All of this translates to swarms and swarms of flying bloodsucking insects who can potentially carry different diseases. They include the Ross River virus or the Barmah Forest virus, among others, even more serious ones. This has caused councils to start taking action earlier this year. There’s a growing concern among experts that we might be seeing an expansion of the mosquito season due to climate change. And while councils are doing everything in their power to prevent massive mozzie infestations, this will not be easy.

Mosquito Breeding

Mosquito on a leaf

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The way mosquitoes lay their eggs can vary from species to species.
 However, the formula followed by most widespread genera is pretty straightforward. It’s also the reason we’re facing such a huge problem right now.

Mozzies love warm, damp weather which provides the perfect conditions for them to hatch and develop quickly. Most species lay their eggs on stale water. Entomologists also warn to be careful with house plants. That is especially if they form any nooks or crannies, because they can be used as hatcheries, too.

How long the eggs take to hatch depends highly on the temperatures and water conditions. After they hatch, they go through the larva and then pupa stages relatively quickly. This means we get lots of and lots of mosquitoes ready to multiply within a couple of weeks. Once they’ve matured enough, females can lay hundreds of eggs  every few days. You do the math if you feel like it. The good news is males only have a few days lifespan. The bad news is with millions and millions of them flying around, you wouldn’t notice a decline in numbers until their season passes.

Mosquitoes Control

Mosquito in Melbourne

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Councils try to get ahead of the situation, doing all kinds of spraying for larvae and adult mosquitoes, alike. However, most pesticides don’t really act on the eggs, which means that even if a small percentage of them survive, they can easily repopulate an area.

Besides, councils spray mostly in areas known as breeding grounds for mozzies, meaning this year things are going to get nasty. Add that to the fact that salt marsh mosquitoes are excellent flyers, and we get real horror movie on our hands.

It’s not all bad, though. There are some things you can do in order to at least reduce the number of mozzies in your area. First off, because they love water so much, don’t leave any stale water lying around if you can help it. This will make it a little bit more difficult to multiply in number. Given their reproduction rate, at least on a local level, you can reduce their ranks quite a lot.

Next, clean your gutters and drains. If you’ve skipped the spring cleaning of the drains and gutters, now’s the perfect time. If they’re not clear, water cannot run through them freely, which means stale water. Good maintenance is important.

If you think you might already have an infestation on your hands, call a pest control professional. After a thorough inspection of the premises, the source of the infestation (if there is any) will be located and dealt with. Since pest controllers handle these threats more locally and in a more concentrated manner, you can be sure both the breeding ground and the grown up population will be dealt with.

How to Reduce Mosquito Bites

Mosquito-feeding

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We have some good news and some bad news. We’ll start with the bad news. Mosquitoes like some people more than others, which explains why oftentimes it seems they’re biting you more than your friends (because they possibly are). A large part of this is caused by genetics, according to entomologists, so there’s nothing you can do about it.

The good news is genetics are just one component, meaning you still have some control over these reactions and you can protect yourself from mosquitoes. There are some pretty powerful repellents, but they won’t work too well if you’re basically asking to get bitten. If you know mozzies better, though, then you might stand a chance.

Mosquitoes are attracted to CO2

The gas we exhale when we breathe. So the more you breathe, the better target you become. Of course, there are many sources of CO2 in nature, but the particular blend of gases and substances in our breath makes it particularly recognisable (and the more we breathe out, the more likely target we are). That’s why large people and pregnant women are usually primary targets – they exhale quite a lot of CO2. This means sports aren’t a good idea either.

Sports aren’t a good idea for another reason, as well. Mosquitoes are quite attracted to body odour. They’ve evolved in such a way that they can sniff the bacteria that hides in sweat (and the reason for distinct smell), so sports make it a lot more likely for mosquitoes to be attracted to you.

Do you smoke?

When you smoke, you inhale CO, a poisonous gas that binds to haemoglobin in your blood. Haemoglobin is what spreads oxygen throughout your body from your lungs, but since oxygen gets replaced with CO, your cells aren’t getting enough oxygen. The result? You start to breath more heavily and exhale a lot more CO2. Every cigarette makes you more and more delicious.

Showering daily and using a deodorant is good advice to keep mozzies away, but don’t overdo it. Strong-scented shower gels and perfumes are also quite attractive to mosquitoes. You should keep this in mind when it comes to the products you use. Oh, and since lactic acid is also attracting mosquitoes (and is naturally secreted through our skin), you should also avoid skin-care products that contain it.

More bad news

Or good news, depending on your fashion sense. It appears mosquitoes are sort of a flying pesky fashion police. When it comes to clothing, they hate people wearing dark clothes and they punish them by biting. Dress in lighter colours and wear more loose clothing for better protection.

Do everything in your power to protect yourself, because one of the worst mosquito seasons in years is standing in front of us. Councils will do what they can in order to deal with this, but we can’t simply count on them to do all the work. All of us have to pitch in. Stay safe!

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