Reporting Dr. Maria Simbra
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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Summer means time outdoors, and time outdoors can be shared with mosquitoes.
How much do you know about these pesky pests?
Did you know only the females bite?
“They do require a blood meal to generate eggs,” Bill Todaro, an emtomologist at the Allegheny County Health Department said. “Male mosquitoes are only interested in sex.”
Some mosquitoes prefer humans, some prefer other animals like birds.
Mosquitoes can suck a lot, and quickly.
“It only takes them about 30 seconds, but they very quickly have a mouth part that’s adapted to, they chew right down and find a capillary, pop into it, and within 30 seconds they just fill up with blood, two or three times their own weight, and fly off,” Todaro said.
Whether you get bitten has a lot to do with your personal chemistry.
“Carbon dioxide mostly out of your breath, and out of your skin, octonol, other hormones that emerge from our skin,” Todaro said regarding the substances we emit that make us attractive to mosquitoes.
“There are some people who are just lucky, that aren’t as prone, and some people are more prone,” Robin Gehris, a dermatologist at Children’s Hospital, said.
The good news is, mosquitoes are easily sent off track.
“These repellents, once they’re put on your skin, confuse the mosquito,” Todaro said. “All of a sudden there’s all these other chemicals that are overwhelming their radar and their sensory perception, and so they never land and take a bite. If they land, they take off very quickly.”
If you do get bitten, how badly you react can vary.
“If a person hasn’t been as exposed as frequently in their life to bites, they might be more prone to dramatically reacting each time they’re exposed,” Dr. Gehris said.
Of course, the worst reaction is to get infected with a life-threatening disease, which these insects are known to spread such as malaria, West Nile Virus, and dengue fever.
The best way to get rid of mosquitoes is to get rid of any standing water.
“If you are getting bitten by mosquitoes, there is a breeding source somewhere close to you,” Todaro said. “All it takes is an inch of water.”
The wet spring and a hot early part of the summer have made mosquitoes particularly bad this year. The Health Department is trapping 3,000 a week, compared to just 1,000 a week at the same time last year.