Preparing for Mosquito Season

As temperatures rise and spring rains fall, mosquito populations increase exponentially, and for many campers, hunters, and fishermen, mosquitoes can be not only a nuisance, but also carriers of mosquito-borne illnesses such as West Nile virus, eastern equine encephalitis virus, and western equine encephalitis virus.

In the United States, there many different genera of mosquitoes, but the three main genera are Culex mosquitoes, Anopheles mosquitoes, and Aedes mosquitoes.

Culex mosquitoes are the most common mosquitoes in the United States. Culexpipiens is also known as the common house mosquito and Culex mosquitoes are responsible for transmitting West Nile Virus, eastern equine encephalitis virus, and western equine encephalitis virus in the United States. Culex mosquitoes can be found in every state in the United States and typically feed during dusk and at dawn.

Anopheles mosquitoes, the genus of mosquitoes that transmits malaria, are the second most prevalent genus in the United States. While malaria is not endemic to the United States, Anopheles mosquitoes are still a major nuisance. Like Culex mosquitoes, Anopheles mosquitoes feed at dusk and at dawn and are prevalent in all states east of the Mississippi River, all states on the West Coast, and all states of the Southwest.

Aedes mosquitoes have historically been the most dangerous mosquitoes in the United States. From the 1600s through the early 1900s, yellow fever, a disease transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, caused a total of 100,000-150,000 deaths in epidemics that struck Philadelphia, New Orleans, Memphis, Baltimore, New York, Charleston, and the Mississippi River Valley. While yellow fever is no longer a major threat in the United States, Aedes mosquitoes are still considered the most aggressive biters in the United States and are prevalent throughout the Southern and Eastern United States. Aedes mosquitoes, particularly the Asian Tiger mosquito (Aedesalbopictus) tend to bite during the day.

Aedes mosquitoes tend to dominate and thrive in urban areas, but since we are discussing camping, hunting, and fishing, we will focus primarily on the mosquitoes that thrive in rural areas: Anopheles mosquitoes and Culex mosquitoes.

Like all mosquitoes, Anopheles mosquitoes and Culex mosquitoes begin life in water, and since most outdoor activities revolve around water – fishing would not be possible without water, game could not survive without local sources of water, and most campsites are located near water sources – mosquitoes are almost inevitable. While avoiding mosquitoes is nearly impossible, avoiding being bitten by them is possible if you follow a few simple tips.

1. Wear long sleeves and pants whenever possible. Most mosquitoes cannot penetrate loose-fitting clothing and wearing long sleeves and pants will protect your torso, arms, and legs from most mosquitoes.
2. Wear a head net. A well-constructed head net will protect your face, head, and neck without impairing your vision or constricting airflow. I recommend mosquito head nets that are attached to a boonie hat, such as the Mozzie Hat, as I have found that most cheap head nets cling to the wearer’s face and become quite irritating.

3. Wear an effective repellent. While there are many natural repellents, DEET is considered the most effective mosquito repellent by far. If you choose to wear a DEET repellent, make sure that it is not more than 30% DEET. Anything over 30% is unnecessary. If you prefer non-DEET repellents, lavender oil, lemon eucalyptus oil, and garlic-based repellants

4. Wash your clothes in permethrin. Washing your clothes in permethrin is very effective against mosquitoes and actually kills the mosquitoes instead of merely repelling them.

5. Use mosquito netting while sleeping outdoors. This is key. Good rest is very important on long hunting expeditions, camping trips, and fishing trips, and an effective mosquito net will keep out mosquitoes and allow you to sleep peacefully.  Personally, I highly recommend Catoma’s IBNS net because it is very well-constructed, it is exceptionally lightweight, and it is very useful in hot climates.

6. Do not sleep near water sources. While all mosquitoes are born in water, most mosquitoes do not travel very far in their short lives. The majority of mosquitoes will never venture more than a hundred yards from their birthplace.

7. Be aware of the feeding times for local mosquito populations. The majority of mosquitoes in rural areas will feed during the early hours of the day and at sunset. Limiting activity during these times will reduce your expose to mosquitoes.

Following these seven tips can mean the difference between having a great trip, unhindered by biting insects and having a miserable trip full of blood-sucking mosquitoes followed by a week of having to itch every spot on your body. While some of the tips may cause some slight inconvenience, they pale in comparison to being infected with West Nile virus or having hundreds of red spots all over your faces, neck, arms, and legs. Follow these tips and have a fantastic, mosquito-free summer.

Trevor Kuntz is an avid outdoorsman and is the founder of Serenitu. He has been reading and writing about mosquitoes, the diseases they carry, and the impact they have on the world’s economy and health since high school.