Eating garlic, avoiding bananas - what really works? We’ve busted 10 of the most common myths about pesky mosquitoes and how to keep them at bay.
1. Mosquitoes can't bite through clothes
Covering up with long clothes does make it harder for them to bite us, but unfortunately a hungry mozzie can bite through clothing and other fabrics. To make sure your clothes are keeping you and your family safe, clothing, sleeping bags and other travel gear needs to be treated with permethrin.
2. Mosquitoes only bite at dusk and dawn
There are thousands of different species of mosquito and some of these like to feed during the day (including the Aedes aegypti mosquito that transmits Zika and dengue). It’s best to assume they will bite you all day and night.
3. Our diet can make us less attractive to mosquitoes
If you’ve ever wondered “Why do mosquitoes bite me so much?” you’re not alone! Mosquitoes are attracted to dozens of chemicals and odours emitted by our skin. Some people give off more of these chemicals than others and may find themselves covered in bites while someone next to them remains bite free. Unfortunately for the tastier ones among us, there’s no evidence that eating garlic, avoiding bananas or taking Vitamin B will have any effect on your attractiveness to mosquitoes.
4. All mosquitoes bite and suck blood
Of the thousands of mosquito species around the world, only about 80 actually bite humans. Most prefer to feed on reptiles, mammals and some even on birds. Male mosquitoes live entirely off nectar and other food from plants. Only female mosquitoes bite as they need the protein from blood to develop their eggs.
5. You only need to wear repellent in Africa and the Tropics
As the spread of the Zika virus shows, mosquito borne diseases are becoming more common around the world, even in places not usually considered high-risk. If you’re travelling overseas, there are few countries that haven’t reported cases of serious diseases caused by the bite of infected mosquitoes. Thankfully in New Zealand it’s highly unlikely you’ll get sick from a mosquito bite, but cellulitis from infected bites is a relatively common occurrence.
Check our interactive mozzie map to see the spread of the most common mosquito-borne diseases around the world.
6. Mosquitoes exist only to annoy us!
As much as we love to hate them, mosquitoes don’t exist just to annoy us. They are a vital food source for birds and other insects, and an important pollinator of some plant species so it looks like they’re here to stay.
7. DEET isn't safe
Developed in the 1950's and used on hundreds of millions of people around the world since, DEET is a safe and effective repellent that has not been linked to serious health problems. There’s no disputing the fact that DEET is recognised by the World Health Organisation and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention as one of the best insect repellents available to protect from biting insects and avoid contracting serious mosquito-borne diseases.
8. Vicks will stop them biting!
Depending on how thick it’s applied, it may prevent the mosquito from actually biting, but there is no evidence to prove that Vicks (or any other skin lotion) will provide lasting and effective repellency compared to regular insect repellents.
9. Ultrasound devices, bracelets and smartphone apps can repel mosquitoes
They sound really convenient and hi-tech. The unfortunate thing is that there’s really no evidence that these products provide lasting or effective protection compared to tried and tested repellents. If there’s even a slight risk of disease carrying mosquitoes where you're travelling, don’t rely on these products to keep you safe.
10. Stronger repellents are better
Scientific studies show that DEET, Picaridin and Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE) products don’t necessarily get more effective at higher concentrations. In fact the WHO recommends that repellents contain 30-50% DEET, 25% Picaridin and 10-40% OLE to be at their most effective. Higher concentrations may last longer but can also have other effects such as an unpleasant odour, a greasy or slimy feeling or skin irritation.