Entomologist: A good year for mosquitos

Mosquito. Source: ERR

While the development of mosquitos was postponed by a cool spell in early May, the mosquito season in Estonia is still off to an earlier than usual start. Entomologist Urmas Tartes recommends getting used to the bloodsuckers instead of frantic efforts to fight them off.

"A good year for mosquitos is well underway. At least in Southern Estonia, they came out last week and weekend. The period that sees the most mosquitos has begun," Tartes told ERR. As mosquito imagos have waited until the third or even fourth week of May to take flight in past years, the season got off to an earlier than usual start this year.

He said that every puddle or waterhole constitutes a favorable breeding ground for mosquitos. "Mosquitos can reproduce everywhere water remains for two weeks," Tartes said, adding that it is a misconception that there are fewer mosquitos in cities.

"The abundance of mosquitos tends to be quite constant from one place to the next," he said, adding that there are simply more people as food to go around in urban areas. Mosquitos might also find it a little harder to locate suitable breeding grounds in cities.

Coming under attack from mosquitos for the first time in the season, Tartes suggests allowing the insects to drink their fill. "Our body will get to know the mosquito and all future encounters will not leave a mark... /.../ They aren't a problem at all for me anymore. I really have adjusted," the entomologist said. While the proteins in mosquito saliva are completely harmless to humans, they spark a minor allergic reaction around the area of the bite. But our immune system will gradually learn that such a painful reaction is not necessary.

Estonia has 34 known species of mosquito, while only around ten of those account for over 90 percent of mosquitos people encounter. A third in turn of those are from the Aedes and Ochlerotatus genera.

Tartes said that mosquitos are interesting animals and play an important part in maintaining our natural environment. "Mosquitos are peculiar and vital parts of the network of life. As larvae, they eat small organisms and algae, while they themselves serve as food for larger insects and finally birds."

How to avoid mosquitos?

Triinu Entsik-Grünberg, head of the Raeapteek pharmacy in Tallinn's Old Town, said that mosquitos tend to like people with a relatively higher body temperature and those who are exercising. "People doing manual labor outside are a real treat for mosquitos," she remarked.

Various studies have shown that clothing is also a factor when it comes to attracting mosquitos. The insects seem to be partial to red and black clothing. Entsik-Grünberg recommends wearing light-colored clothing when outside, also because ticks are easier to spot that way.

Fruity and sweet smells also work to attract mosquitos. "Using a sweet smelling shower gel or perfume is to their liking," she said. At the same time, mosquitos do not like the smell of peppermint, menthol, eucalyptus, lemongrass and basil. "It is said that crushing these plants and covering parts of the body in them is unpleasant for the insects."

Once mosquito bites have flared up, they can be soothed using tea tree or lavender oil. Insect bites should not be scratched until the skin is damaged as that might lead to infection.

Triinu Entsik-Grünberg said that the principle of the more, the merrier should not be applied to mosquito repellents. She urges people to read the instructions for use and determine whether the repellent should be applied to the face, other parts of the body or clothing.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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