Mosquitoes have been around for more than 30 million years. There are over 2700 species. In a handful of these species, the female mosquito needs protein for her eggs to mature. She gets this protein from the blood of birds and mammals. This includes you.

Mosquito bites hurt and itch. Do not scratch them. Washing with mild soap and water, and using topical anti-itch creams can help relieve the discomfort. But the best way to alleviate the symptoms is to not get bitten in the first place.

How do mosquitoes find you?

Chemical sensors - When you breath, you exhale carbon dioxide and lactic acid. Mosquitoes can sense these chemicals up to 100 feet away. Your sweat also has chemicals that attract mosquitoes. Drinking beer can make you more attractive to mosquitoes. Eating Limburger cheese can also make you attractive.

Visual sensors - Mosquitoes can detect contrast to background. So if you are wearing light color clothing against a background of something like dark woods, you will get the attention of a mosquito. If the she sees you moving, she knows that you are alive and will come to investigate.

Heat sensors - Warm blooded animals radiate heat. Mosquitoes can detect heat. So they can find warm-blooded animals, easily if they are close enough.

How to avoid being bitten by a mosquito

1. Avoid them - Stay in the house around dawn and dusk when most mosquitoes are active. Wear clothing that covers most of the body.

2. Control them - Drain all sources of standing water: clean out gutters, change birdbath water, fill in low lying areas, etc.

3. Hide from them - Use repellent.

Mosquito Repellent

DEET (NN-diethyl-meta-toluamide ) is an excellent mosquito repellent. It can be used in concentrations from 7.5 percent to 100 percent. Lower concentrations are sufficient for most outdoor activities. A 15-percent concentration is recommended for children.

Higher concentrations of DEET affect the length of time the repellent is effective, and not the overall effectiveness. A concentration of 5% lasts around nintey minutes. A concentration of 100% will provide approximately ten hours of protection. A 10% product is fine for protection for the duration of an evening outdoor activity such as a family barbecue. Expected duration of a 10% product is between ninety minutes and two hours. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, all family members over the age of two months can use DEET-based repellents with up to 30% concentration with confidence.

Picaridin is a synthetic repellent developed by Bayer Corporation. Picaridin is odorless, and studies have shown it to be as effective as DEET. Picaridin can be used on infants over the age of two months.

Another repellent is oil of lemon-eucalyptus. Used at a 40% formulation, this naturally-derived eucalyptus based repellent not only repels mosquitoes but it is also effective at repelling ticks.

Avon's original Skin-So-Soft is a weak mosquito repellent lasting less than 20 minutes Newer Skin-So-Soft formulations include EPA-recognized insect repellents.

Permethrin, an effective neuro-toxic pesticide. It is only to be used on clothing. NEVER apply it to your skin.

Mosquito Repellent Myths

There have been several natural and man-made products claiming to be effective mosquito repellents.

Citronella oil is an effective mosquito repellent in high concentrations, but individual citronella-producing plant and candles do not make enough oil to effectively repel mosquitoes.

Bug zappers that attract insects with ultraviolet lights kill more beneficial insects than mosquitoes. Besides, you are more attractive to a mosquito than an ultraviolet light.

Ultrasonic devices emit a high pitched noise out of the range of human hearing. Multiple studies have proven that ultrasonic devices are not effective.

Controlled laboratory studies have proven also show that the ingestion of garlic, vitamin B12 and other systemics have no impact on reducing mosquito bites.