Strategies for the War on Mosquitoes

      July 11, 2006 19:50

      The tedium of the rainy season continues, and with it the battle against creatures some cynics cite as proof that God does not exist: mosquitoes.

      In the war against this menace to sanity, faith and health, the usual rules of battle apply: know yourself and know your enemy.

      The Chosun Ilbo has these practical tips.

      ◆ Three Deadly Weapons

      Mosquitoes have an amazingly powerful sense of smell. Precisely detecting carbon dioxide concentrations, mosquitoes can locate a target from up to 20 m and zoom in for the attack. The are particularly attracted to the sweat on body and feet, amino acids, and perfume and cologne. Octonol, which is found in sweat and female hormones, is a favorite, so women who are especially plagued by mosquitoes may find they secrete higher levels of the hormone.

      Mosquitoes can also detect minute temperature variations, sensing body temperature from 10 to 20 m away. A mosquito with legs fully extended measures at most 1 cm, so their range of detection is 1,000-2,000 times greater than their body size. On top of that, nature has given the little monsters the ability to make an about-turn in a split second. Equipped with hundreds of sensors, the insects are capable of detecting objects in almost every direction, and can in an instant stop and turn around for the attack. That is why they seem to come and go through closed shutters and dodge raindrops as they buzz around.

      ◆ Insecticide

      In apartment buildings, mosquitoes breed in the basement and around the water tank and travel around by way of the ventilation system, drainage and elevators. In homes, they are first attracted to warm and humid areas like the kitchen and the bathroom. That is where insecticide must primarily be used. Once mosquitoes are in the house, they can stick around forever, living off any stagnant water in flower pots and the like and, of course, the victims of their bloodsucking: people and pets.

      ◆ Defense

      Washing well and keeping your body cool is the first rule. More than a sitting duck, mosquitoes love people who do not shower before bed, sweat profusely, and have a higher body temperature. That is the reason children, with their high metabolic rate and body temperatures, are popular with the pests. They also love people who use colognes and perfumes and people who wear dark-colored clothing.

      After feasting on your blood, the mosquito's body is too engorged to fly far, so it will head for the nearest wall, tree, or pillar to take it easy for a while. Once it has recovered, it starts to move around again, which is why it’s best to sleep as far away from the wall as possible. Avoid using lotions or perfume before going to bed, and sleep in light-colored bed clothes.

      The active ingredient in insecticides targets them only, and save for people with major allergies, there is little to worry about. A person would have to consume 40 bottles of mosquito killer before it would be fatal. For youngsters and the elderly going outdoors, mosquito repellant cream or spray can be effective.

      Key-ring type products, which fit in the palm of a hand, emit ultrasonic waves, basically playing the monsters a sound that irritates them. There are also bands that can be worn on the wrist and ankle which when pressed give off a natural scent that repels mosquitoes and other bugs.

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