What can you do to reduce your chance of being bitten?
We can’t change our biology, but there are some things we can do to make ourselves less enticing to mosquitoes. As well as being attracted to certain odour cues, Ritchie says mosquitoes also respond to visual attractants.
“They tend to like dark things,” he says. “If you’re wearing dark clothing and the person next to you is wearing white, you’ll be more attractive.”
And if you’ve ever wondered whether mosquitoes can bite through clothing, the answer is a resounding yes.
“Wear light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.”
He says mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk so, if you can’t avoid being outdoors at these times, the most effective way to avoid being bitten is to use an insect repellent.
Does eating certain foods help to repel mosquitoes?
From eating garlic and vitamin B to avoiding potassium-rich bananas, there are countless old wives’ remedies for how to keep mosquitoes at bay.
But mosquito researcher and medical entomologist Dr Cameron Webb says there’s no scientific evidence that anything you eat or drink, or changes you make to your diet, will stop mosquitoes from biting you.
“These are all myths,” he says.
There is one very commonly cited study in Africa, he says, where they found that people who drank beer attracted more mosquitoes than people who just drank water.
“There was a slight but statistically significant finding,” he says. “But that doesn’t mean laying off the booze at your next summer barbecue is going to protect you.”
Can you use sound to repel mosquitoes?
A quick search in your phone’s app store will yield countless results for mosquito-repelling apps that use sound to deter the bugs. While novel, Dr Webb says these are nothing more than a gimmick.
“Ultrasonic sound from your phone is not going to stop you getting bitten by mosquitoes,” he says. “Sound has been marketed for decades but there is just no evidence for it whatsoever. These sonic smartphone apps and battery-operated keychain clips are completely useless.”
The reason this myth pervades, he says, is that there was a really fascinating study by researchers in Malaysia that played dubstep to mosquitoes to see if it stopped them from biting or laying eggs.
“They noticed there was a slight reduction in mosquitoes that were blood feeding and a slight reduction in the number that were laying the eggs,” Dr Webb explains. “Generally speaking – the whole idea of sound as a repellent is not grounded in any kind of scientific theory and there is no real evidence female mosquitoes are responding to sound in any great way.”
Dr Webb says male mosquitoes do respond to sound, which is why they can be bait-trapped with the siren song of the female mosquito. “But female mosquitoes are tone-deaf so playing Skrillex will not protect you from being bitten.”
How can you keep mosquitoes out of the house?
If you’ve noticed mozzies lurking outside your back door, there are things you can do ensure they never make it over the threshold.
As the weather warms up, Dr Webb recommends doing a sweep of your house – check your fly screens and doors and patch any holes or replace screens that have become loose or damaged.
If you’ve got any pools of stagnant water around the house, he also suggests removing these so that mosquitoes cannot breed. This could include cleaning your gutters to ensure water is not pooling in your eaves.
Once they’re inside, the best way to rid yourself of mosquitoes is to use insect sprays and repellents formulated for indoors. “There are also things like strips you plug into the wall that have timed release of insecticides,” he says.